Hymn for scientists

Hubby and I went to a church today where sung was one of the — what’s the right word? — most darling hymns out there. Almost as cute as “I Sing a Song of the Saints of God” which wins the prize. Normally I’m not keen on it because it’s rarely sung with the verve it needs, but there were a posse of college-aged baritones in the back of the nave that gave it some umph.

But “Earth and All Stars” is really a 1968 modernist updating of the Benedicite, opera omnia, which is itself the larger part of that most variously named books in the Apocrypha, or more accurately one of the Greek additions to Daniel. (In NRSV) I’ve seen it called Prayer of Azariah and the Song of the Three Jews or the Song of the Three Holy Children. I’ll stick to calling it the Song of the Three.

But back to the hymn. It was written by Herbert F. Brokering, and the gist is that everything praises the Lord with “a new song!” The you get to the fourth stanza, my favorite:

Engines and steel,
Loud boiling test tubes,
Sing to the Lord —
A new song!
Limestone and beams
Loud building workers
. . . .

You get the idea. I like it because devotion to God is cast as universal, and neither divorced nor alien to the works of the world. “Knowledge and truth, loud sounding wisdom” (in their praise) cap off the hymn.

It makes me happy, since piety has become so encapsulated, purified, and gated — both from the Left and Right in their own ways — in recent decades. That’s a nice thing I’ll always have to say for the neo-Pagans: they don’t get caught in such futile dichotomies. Neither should Christians.

The hymn is still under copyright, but is easy to find:

6 Replies to “Hymn for scientists”

  1. Have you ever visited First Unitarian in Chicago? One of the things I love about the worship space is the way it incorporates symbols of professions and labor, along with symbols of the natural world and universe, into the ornament (yes, ornament in a UU meeting house!) of the building. These are inlaid in beautifully colored stone in the walls and lend an air both of modernity and tradition. If the language of reverence includes symbols, I think the design of First Unitarian is a good example of religious humanism (in the broades sense) that can speak to a variety of theological perspectives.

  2. I grew up singing “I sing a song of the siants of God” and I do indeed adore it.

    singin’ “And one was a doctor, and one was a queen, and one was a shepherdess on the green…”

  3. Have never been to Chicago — save changing flights — at all. But I was thinking of the mural at the Abraham Lincoln Center/People’s Church with its mural, complete with scientist in lab coat with test tube.

    I’ve only heard it described. Does anyone have a picture of it?

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