In Isolation: April 24, “To Show by Touch and Word”

An introduction to this “In Isolation” blog series appears at the top of the March 22 post.


As mentioned in my April 23 entry, I’ve decided to honour this 50th anniversary year of Earth Day by selecting a series of hymn/song lyrics from the website which feature a focus on spirituality as related to ecology and environmentalism.

Fred Kaan’s “To Show by Touch and Word” is my choice for today. In this text, there are really two areas of focus. One is clearly about the our call to respect and care for the gift of creation which we call home. The other is somewhat more subtly stated as a call to action.

Of that second focus Fred wrote, “This hymn expresses one of my major preoccupations in life: How do we make a good transition from worship in church to representing Christ in the world? I often think that the most important ‘liturgical movement’ comes at the end of the service when ushers open the doors following the benediction/blessing. Now what…?”

It is common for hymn and song titles to be drawn from the first line. In fact, that is how most hymnbooks and worship songbooks are designed. Fred was not an advocate of that practice. He felt that a title should reflect a more thematic summary of the poem. Therefore, much to the chagrin of editors, publishers and royalty bean-counters, most of Fred’s lyrics have two titles: one being the first line and the other being Fred’s preferred summary. His own titles rarely stuck since they tended to be a source of confusion for nearly everyone but Fred himself. This is because his title phrase rarely appeared as part of the text. Most who use today’s hymn know it as “To Show by Touch and Word”. Fred’s title named it “A Hymn for the Close of Worship”.


To show by touch and word
devotion to the earth,
to hold in high regard
all life that comes to birth,
we need, O God, the will to find
the good you had of old in mind.

Inspire our hearts to choose
the things that matter most,
to speak and do the truth,
creating peace and trust.
For every challenge that we face
we need your guidance and your grace.

Let love from day to day
be touchstone, guide and norm,
and let our lives portray
your Word in human form.
Now come with us that we may have
your wits about us where we live.

Words by Fred Kaan
Copyright © 1975, 1996 by Hope Publishing Company (Carol Stream, Illinois) for USA and Canada.
Copyright © 1975, 1996 by Stainer & Bell Limited (London, England) for all other territories.