STLT#175, We Celebrate the Web of Life

Sometimes a hymn sits next to our principles, or waves from across the room at them, or bumps into them in the hallway as they’re rushing to a committee meeting, or left a cryptic email, or BS’d its way through an essay about them in an ethics class.

Sometimes a hymn is a principle, embodied.

Welcome to the seventh principle, in song.

Sure, we’ll come across others of a similar bent; but if you asked me to pick one hymn for our seventh principle, ‘the interconnected web of which we are all a part’, this would be my winner. And it’s entirely possible that this was the charge to Alicia Carpenter, whose lyrics were commissioned for Singing the Living Tradition.

To Alicia I say a hearty “Well Done!” Plus, she set it to what might be described as an old Lutheran hymn, Christus Der Ist Mein Leben by German composer Melchior Vulpius, who wrote this, oh, a little over 500 years ago. I say it’s a plus because it’s a lovely tune – spirited but majestic, given a fresh look with these fresh lyrics. (Bonus: no cankerworms! Seriously, that’s still stuck in my craw…)

We celebrate the web of life, its magnitude we sing;
for we can see divinity in every living thing.

A fragment of the perfect whole in cactus and in quail,
as much in tiny barnacle as in the great blue whale.

Of ancient dreams we are the sum; our bones link stone to star,
and bind our future worlds to come with worlds that were and are.

Respect the water, land, and air which gave all creatures birth;
protect the lives of all that share the glory of the earth.

Yep, I’m a fan, and I try to use this when I preach on climate justice, stewardship and appreciation of the earth, and the immanent divine.

Despite a gloomy, chilly, foggy morning, and despite a hard night full of fear-filled dreams, this hymn brings me some solace and joy today.

Yes. That pic is of a quail next to a cactus. You’re welcome.


  1. Not sure why, but the word “barnacle” makes me giggle (or cringe) as much as cankerworm. Reminds me of the time I put together a hymnal scavenger hunt for the kids, challenging them to see how many different animals are mentioned in STLT. (I gave them some clues to help in their hunt.) As I recall, another odd and obscure animal word used in one of the hymns (but I can’t remember which one) is “saurian” (reptile). 😉


  2. As soon as I saw the word “saurian,” the tune of that hymn leapt to mind. I don’t have my hymnal here with me, but I know exactly what Kaye is talking about.


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