Welcome Clergy Letter Project Members,
For years, I have been sharing my passion for the importance of mystery, awe and wonder in faith and science, and indeed in all of life. I have maintained this website and added many resources through the years. I invite you to explore everything on this website, but I have set up this page to make it easier for you to find the resources I think might be most helpful to you as you prepare to celebrate Religion and Science Weekend, February 10-12, 2023. I will also use this page to share resources that you might want to recommend to others. You can learn more about the Clergy Letter Project Religion and Science Weekend (including a list of participating congregations) at https://www.theclergyletterproject.org/rasweekend2023.html
If you would like to recommend resources to be shared on this page, or have questions, please email be at firstname.lastname@example.org.
PLEASE NOTE: THIS PAGE IS A WORK IN PROGRESS. I PLAN TO ADD RESOURCES TO THIS PAGE EACH WEEK UNTIL FEB. 10-12
Here are two resources I have used many times:
I use this prayer from Gates of Prayer, (a Jewish prayerbook) in almost all my presentations
HOW FILLED WITH AWE
Days pass and the years vanish, and we walk sightless among miracles. Lord, fill our eyes with seeing and our minds with knowing; let there be moments when Your Presence, like lightning, illumines the darkness in which we walk.
Help us to see, wherever we gaze, that the bush burns unconsumed.
And we, clay touched by God, will reach out for holiness, and exclaim in wonder:
How filled with awe is this place, and we did not know it!
Blessed is the Eternal One, the holy God!
( p. 170.)
I often precede this prayer with this quote from Isaac Newton: “I do not know what I may appear to the world; but to myself I seem to have been only like a boy, playing on the seashore, and diverting myself, in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.” ( World of Mathematics, Vol. I, p. 271.)
And this comic from Calvin and Hobbes:
I also regularly share this quote from Albert Einstein:
The most beautiful and deepest experience a [person] can have is the sense of the mysterious. It is the underlying principle of religion as well as of all serious endeavor in art and in science … [The one] who never had this experience seems to me, if not dead, then at least blind. The sense that behind anything that can be experienced there is a something that our mind cannot grasp and whose beauty and sublimity reaches us only indirectly and as feeble reflection, this is religiousness. In this sense I am religious. To me it suffices to wonder at these secrets and to attempt humbly to grasp with my mind a mere image of the lofty structure of all that there is. “My Credo” 1932.
Christian clergy who use this quote might want to draw attention to similarities between Einstein’s statement and 1 Corinthians 13:9-12
As Einstein makes clear, mystery is not a riddle or problem to be solved. Mystery is a reality or truth too “big”, complex and marvelous for us to fully take in. With mystery, the more we know of it, the more we realize how much more there is that we don’t know about it, but we are drawn to seek to learn more. Awe is our response to such mysteries. Awe is a vital dimension of faith and life, and is often identified by scientists as a major reason they have chosen to be scientists. Without awe, life becomes flat and people become hollow.
I have gathered many quotes and insights from scientists, theologians, philosophers and others on these web pages:
Mystery, Awe and Wonder in Science
Mystery, Awe and Wonder in Religion
Mystery, Awe and Wonder in Literature and Philosophy
Mystery and Awe in ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ and other comics
From my reading, Abraham Joshua Heschel is the theologian who has explored mystery and awe most deeply and shares many profound insights. Here is an important one:
Awe, in this sense, is more than an emotion; it is a way of understanding. Awe is itself an act of insight into meaning greater than ourselves. The meaning of awe is to realize that life takes place under wide horizons, horizons that range beyond the span of an individual life or even the life of a nation, a generation, or an era. Awe enables us to perceive in the world intimations of the divine, to sense in small things the beginning of infinite significance, to sense the ultimate in the common and the simple.” (God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism, pp.74-75.)
Few people today live with “wide horizons.” We so readily get caught up in our own interests, our own struggles, our own activities. We live with blinders on rather than living with wide horizons. What are ways you can open up your life to the fullness of God’s activity in this world as well as in your life?
Of Heschel’s many books, I especially recommend God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism and I asked for Wonder. I asked for Wonder. is a collection of short quotes and insights, many of which might be shared during this years Religion and Science Weekend. The title of this book comes from this quote:
I did not ask for success, I asked for wonder. And You gave it to me.
ACTIVITIES TO INSPIRE AWE AND WONDER
When leading a class or presentation on mystery, awe and wonder, I feel it is important not just to talk about awe, but when possible, to try to help people experience awe. Because awe is our response to mystery and to objects and experiences which connect us to mystery, we can’t just decide to experience awe. HERE are some activities I have used to help people experience awe and wonder. If you have used other activities for this, I would love to hear about them and share them on this page.
There are many excellent videos that can be used to inspire and enrich people’s understanding of Mystery, Awe and Wonder in Religion and Science–
In February 2013, Grace Wolf-Chase and I were guests for first episode of the Evolving Universe, Evolving Faith series Darkwood Brew. (The Clergy Letter Project was one of the sponsors of that series and the first was streamed to coordinate with Evolution Weekend in 2013. – https://mysteryandawe.com/uncategorized/28559/
Br. Guy Consolmagno’s Your God is Too Small is an outstanding video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0xq3uXIqb60
This is a great video on Awe and Wonder from the AAAS Dialog on Science, Ethics and Religion (DoSER) – https://sciencereligiondialogue.org/resources/awe-wonder-scientists-reflect-on-their-vocations-2/
NASA offers many great resources (all of them in the public domain). Two I particularly recommend are: https://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?feature=7035 – Journey through Orion Nebula and https://hubblesite.org/contents/media/videos/01GF6S1W92D6DYX1PZ1T7S86MT cosmic wonders
This video from Letters to the Exiles offers wonderful insights inspired by a poem by Gerald Manley Hopkins – http://www.letterstotheexiles.com/flow-page/#bonus — Wonder-rush
Here is a beautiful video of a spectacular aurora – https://vimeo.com/85070976
These Discovery Channel commercials are fun – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bYIW04aie0Y –
Here is a video of the worship song Indescribable – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sM5YReFSm0I – Indescribable
These are some hymns and contemporary worship songs you might consider for a worship service focusing on Mystery, Awe and Wonder in Religion and Science. –
Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise,
How Great Thou Art,
Please share with me your hymn and worship song suggestions.
Dangerous Wonder by Michael Yaconelli
Sacred Sense by William Brown
The Sense of the Mysterious by Alan Lightman
A Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson
Resources shared by other Clergy Letter Project Members can be found on this PAGE:
On the religion side I have focused on Christian and Jewish sources, because that is what I am familiar with. If you have resources from other religious traditions, please send them to me and I will share them HERE
I have often been asked why it seems is missing or neglected in so much of contemporary life. I have identified five interrelated factors which I believe contribute to this “eclipse of awe.”
1. Nature Deficit Disorder
2. Lack of Sabbath Rhythm – Manipulation and Appreciation
3. Excessive Busyness in our 24/7 society
4. Commercialization of all of life
5. Triumphalism – “We have all the Answers”
I have written about these factors HERE