Nuts and Bolts Blog – September 23, 2019
We all know how necessary water is for all of life – and we also know the important role that water plays in Scripture. Water, truly, is life for us both physically and spiritually. Our bodies are 60% water; our heart and brain are 73% water. Jesus offered new life to the woman drawing water at the well. John baptized Jesus with the waters of the Jordan River and Jesus and his disciples baptized many new followers with water. We believe that the waters of Baptism, indeed, represent new life for the believer.
We have a resolution from the 79th General Convention that reminds us that not everyone has access to clean, accessible water and we have a responsibility to change this:
B025: Water as a Human Right
Resolved, That the 79th General Convention of the Episcopal Church urges the Church to learn about the watersheds and aquifers in the regions in which our faith communities and institutions are located; and be it further
Resolved, That The Episcopal Church recognize the public trust that protects the waters and community uses in the watersheds and aquifers of the communities and regions that make up the Church; and be it further
Resolved, That The Episcopal Church recognize water and sanitation as human rights and water as a commons (a publicly held natural system); and be it further
Resolved, That The Episcopal Church urge the phase out and eventual ban, by 2021 the sale or distribution of bottled water in Church-related facilities and at Church events except when local water supplies are deemed unsafe; and be it further
Resolved, That The Episcopal Church promote and advocate for publicly financed, owned, and operated safe water and wastewater infrastructure and services.
The originators of this resolution explained it this way:
Water is a potent symbol in the Bible. The waters of the oceans represent immense power and chaotic forces. On the other hand, fresh water is life. We may bring to mind both the great prophets, Isaiah and Ezekiel, who used the images of fresh water springing up in the desert as way to talk of God’s providence and grace. Increasingly, we can feel the truth of the prophets’ insights as we witness the distressing lack of access to fresh, clean water today. According to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, currently 780 million people do not have access to clean water.
At this point in history, with an unprecedented human population of over seven billion, and with agricultural practices, urbanization, and water privatization all making potable water scarce across wide regions of the world, we now understand that drinkable, safe water must be regarded as a basic human right.
The privatization of water complicates and adds to the difficulty of access to clean water, and has also added to the stunning accumulation of discarded plastic, through the selling of bottled water. In 2014, 100.7 billion beverages in plastic bottles were sold in the United States alone, according to the Container Recycling Institute.
This resolution helps the Episcopal Church become aware of the watersheds in which our worshiping communities and institutions are located, commits us to advocacy for the public ownership and management of water resources, and commits us to phasing out and eventually ending the use of plastic bottled water in the Church.
As responsible citizens and members of our Church families, we need to be well-informed about the water resources in our local areas and what the needs of our communities are. What can we do to ensure that all our neighbors have enough water for their needs? Are we aware of our local water resource work? The United States Geological Survey (USGS) Associate Director for Water Resources, Dr. Don Cline writes:
Water information is fundamental to national and local economic well-being, protection of life and property, and effective management of the Nation’s water resources. The USGS works with partners to monitor, assess, conduct targeted research, and deliver information on a wide range of water resources and conditions including streamflow, groundwater, water quality, and water use and availability.
You can learn more about the important work of the USGS on their website. And, more specifically, you can find information about our region on the Upper Midwest Water Science Center site led by Director John Walker here.
The fourth resolve of this resolution asks that we eliminate the use of plastic water bottles at our churches unless we are in a region in which the water in considered unsafe. I think this is, indeed, a goal we can work towards as church communities. I read on the Container Recycling Institute website:
But the price that consumers are paying for the bottled water itself pales in comparison to the price they’re paying for the environmental consequences of manufacturing, transport, and disposal of the bottles. The Earth Policy Institute estimates that making bottles to meet the US demand for bottled water requires more than 15 million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel 100,000 cars for a year.
Transport and disposal of the bottles adds to the resources used, and water extraction – which is concentrated in communities where bottling plants are located – adds to the strains bottled water puts on our ecosystem.
According to the non-profit organization American Rivers, plastic water bottles are one of the top 5 pollutants found in our rivers:
More than 22 billion plastic water bottles are thrown away yearly, meaning only about one in every six water bottles purchased in the United States ends up being recycled. An average water bottle weighs about 12.7 grams, so the amount of water bottles wasted each year weighs over half a billion pounds. That’s almost as heavy as the Empire State Building! Plastic bottles and bottle caps aren’t biodegradable, but they do photodegrade. That means that this plastic breaks down into small parts in the sun, and releases chemicals into the environment as they disintegrate. The worst part? They continue breaking down for 500 – 1,000 years!
Finally, I’d like to share an article on the importance of water both physically and spiritually written by Fr. Michael Van Sloun, pastor of St. Bartholomew Roman Catholic Church in Wayzata, MN:
Water is rebirth. Jesus explained, “No one can enter the kingdom of God without being born of water and Spirit” (Jn 3:5). A person is born as a human being by the goodness of one’s mother, and through the waters of baptism, a person is reborn as a spiritual being by the grace of God, and through this rebirth, the person is an adopted child of God.
Water is life. Water is essential for a plant to grow and bear fruit, and without water, a plant will wilt and die. The waters of baptism impart the life of Christ and enable Christians to grow spiritually and bear an abundant yield of good deeds in the vineyard of life.
Water is power. The swift current of a large river can generate an enormous amount of hydroelectric power. Similarly, the waters of baptism convey the infinite power of God’s amazing grace and energize a person to live a dynamic and vibrant Christian life.
Water is salvation. Noah’s family was saved from the raging waters of the great flood by the ark. A person is rescued in the waters of baptism from the tumult of sin that is swirling below, and is saved in the safety of the boat of the Church with Jesus as its captain. Jesus explained, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mk 16:16a).
Water is cleansing. Water is used to wash soiled clothes or dirty dishes to get rid of the dirt and grime, so they will be sparkling clean. Similarly, the waters of baptism wash away the stains and impurities of sin so that the soul can be white as wool or freshly fallen snow.
Water is deliverance, liberation and freedom. The Israelites were enslaved in Egypt. They were liberated and received their freedom when God divided the sea and they passed through the waters, which were like a wall to their right and their left (Ex 14:21-22). The waters of baptism are deliverance from slavery to sin, liberation from the forces of evil and offer the freedom to choose to live according to God’s ways.
Water is death and resurrection. To fall into the water and be submerged for even a short amount of time can result in drowning and death. If a lifeguard is nearby, the rescuer can dive in, bring the victim out of the water and save his or her life. When a person is plunged into the waters of baptism, the person shares in the death of Jesus, and when the person comes up out of the water, the person is saved and shares in his resurrection (see Rom 6:3-5).
Water is eternal life. When the Israelites came to the end of their exodus journey outside of Jericho, they passed through the waters of the Jordan River, which had halted upstream so that they could cross over safely into the Promised Land (Jos 3:14-17). Those who pass through the waters of baptism are promised an eternal inheritance so that when their human life on earth ends, they will cross over safely to eternal life with God forever in heaven.
There’s no question about it: water is crucial for all life. Let’s work together to support clean, accessible water for everyone and make a change in our Church family practices by avoiding the use of plastic-bottled water.
Let us pray –
O Lord, Giver of Life and Source of Freedom,
we know that all we have is received from your hand.
Gracious and loving God,
you call us to be stewards of your
abundance, the caretakers of all you have entrusted to us.
Help us always to use your gifts wisely
and teach us to share them generously.
Send the Holy Spirit to work through us
bringing your message to those we serve.
May our faithful stewardship bear
witness to the love of Jesus Christ in our lives.
We pray all this with grateful hearts in Jesus name.
~ The Rev. Judith Schellhammer, chair, Resolution Review Committee, Diocesan Council