‘Our Burning World’: a collaboration with Rhiannon Randle

Photo Credit: Matthew Abbott/New York Times/Redux/eyevine

Back in November I was approached by the composer Rhiannon Randle to write some words for a piece on the theme of creation and the environment she had been commissioned to compose for St. Michael Cornhill.  We both felt that the church needed prayerfully to address the crisis of climate change and to express those concerns in her liturgy. The lectionary readings for the occasion seemed strikingly prescient and appropriate: God’s call to us through Isaiah: ‘Rouse yourself, rouse yourself!’ and Jesus’ words to the disciples in Gethsemane ‘Keep awake and Pray’. Together they seemed to me to form a wake-up call! What emerged as I began writing, was a long cry of the earth, an appeal from nature herself, which Rhiannon could set into song.

I wrote ‘Our Burning World’ before the recent devastating Australian fires, but, as you can imagine, these lines came back to me as those fires burned.

Now Rhiannon has completed the piece and it is to have its premiere at St. Michael Cornhill on Monday 17th February in an evensong service at 6pm. I am very much looking forward to hearing this piece – Rhiannon is a brilliant young composer. Do come and join us there if you can.

Here, meanwhile, are the words for ‘Our Burning World’, and below them the two readings which will accompany the anthem when it is sung.I hope that in a later post I can share a recording of Monday’s premiere:

Our Burning World

Our burning world is turning in despair,

I hear her seething, sighing through the air:

‘Oh rouse yourself, this is your wake up call

For your pollution forms my funeral pall

My last ice lapses, slips into the sea,

Will you unfreeze your tears and weep from me?

Or are you sleeping still, taking your rest?

The hour has come, that puts you to the test,

Wake up to change at last, and change for good,

Repent, return, re-plant the sacred wood.

You are my children, I too am God’s child,

And we have both together been defiled,

But God hangs with us, on the hallowed tree

That we might both be rescued, both be free.’


Isaiah 51:17-20

Rouse yourself, rouse yourself!

Stand up, O Jerusalem,

you who have drunk at the hand of the Lord

the cup of his wrath,

who have drunk to the dregs

the bowl of staggering.


There is no one to guide her

among all the children she has borne;

there is no one to take her by the hand

among all the children she has brought up.


These two things have befallen you

—who will grieve with you?—

devastation and destruction, famine and sword—

who will comfort you?[c]


Your children have fainted,

they lie at the head of every street

like an antelope in a net;

they are full of the wrath of the Lord,

the rebuke of your God.

Mark 14:32-42

They went to a place called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be distressed and agitated. 34 And he said to them, “I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and keep awake.” 35 And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 He said, “Abba,[h] Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” 37 He came and found them sleeping; and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep awake one hour? 38 Keep awake and pray that you may not come into the time of trial;[i] the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And once more he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to say to him. 41 He came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? Enough! The hour has come; the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Get up, let us be going. See, my betrayer is at hand.”



Filed under imagination, Poems, politics

10 responses to “‘Our Burning World’: a collaboration with Rhiannon Randle

  1. pokeyone

    Deeply moved by this work, Malcolm, and the remarkable interweaving of the voices of Earth and of Scripture. Thank you.

  2. Judith Sweetman

    Dear Malcolm,

    Thank you so much for this compelling call to action.

    I will be using it, citing you of course, in the two services I’m taking tomorrow- fitting so appropriately with the OT and epistle reading.



    Sent from my iPhone


  3. Damion

    Powerful – thank you for sharing

  4. luke1511ffluke1511

    Climate Change Hysteria “The climate is changing! Oh, what can we do?”So off to a climate change conference they flew,and the jets that crossed time zones to carry them therespewed more hydrocarbons to darken the air. “The climate is changing! The glaciers melt down!the sea will flood continents and we’ll all drown!”But oceans are rising far less than their fears:not more than an inch in the last twenty years. “Get rid of the coal and the oil,” they raved;”We may starve in the dark, but at least we’ll be savedfrom the carbon emissions that boil the seas!”Though sea temperatures rose 1.25 degrees worldwide in the last 18 years, still they fretthat the climate is changing and isn’t done yet.But since ancient times, after rulers arrangedto keep weather records, the climate has changed before we had factories belching pollution,so climate can change without our contribution.The thing they want altered in nations and schoolsis not who makes the weather, but who makes the rules. Steve Wessells, who isn’t fooled by the hysterical mythology, any more than he was in the 70s, when the prophecy assured us that we would all be frozen in an ice age for the last 20 years. God, not biased computer models, controls the weather.

    • malcolmguite

      I follow the science in a world class university and there is every reason to be concerned God placed us in a world of cause and effect and taught us the simple lesson ‘as ye sow, so shall ye reap’. We need to repent of our godless greed now and learn again how gently to tend the garden God has given us

  5. Jean Dabinett

    The whole creation groaneth We ourselves groan The Spirit groaneth (Paul, Romans 8) May God inspire you to express this in your own way.

  6. Pingback: A Sonnet for Ash Wednesday | Malcolm Guite

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.