Published on 1 December 2009
Translations available in: français . Español .

Unitarian Universalist Congregation considers “Our Responsibility for Water”

by Nina GREGG
Associated Central Topics: Environment and responsibility .
Associated General Topics: Climate change . Water . Environment . Environmental education .

During the Climate Change and Water Film Festival at Maryville College in April 2009, the Foothills Unitarian Universalist Fellowship (in Maryville, Tennessee) hosted an educational forum on water led by Nina Gregg. The forum, which included discussion of the environmental and economic impacts of bottled water and a quiz on water facts, concluded with a challenge to individuals and the congregation to identify their responsibility for water.

The congregation invited Nina to return in August to present a guest sermon as part of the annual Water Service. For the Water Service congregants bring water from their travels or places that have been significant to them. During the service all the water samples are poured into a common vessel to symbolize coming together again and that many are one. The Foothills congregation wanted to complement this symbolic ritual with a social justice dimension.

Nina’s sermon began with a meditation on mindfulness about water and offered examples of how the global water crisis, usually thought to be occurring in distant lands, is evident in this community. She explored different ways we can exercise our responsibility for water as individuals, families, communities and congregations, and she asked those present to work together to identify what their responsibility is for water, in keeping with the sixth UU principle: “Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are part.”

The service included the hymns ‘Down by the Riverside’, ‘Wade in the Water, and ‘I’ve Got Peace Like a River’, a reading from Thich N’hat Hanh:

Water flows from high in the mountains.

Water runs deep in the Earth.

Miraculously, water comes to us, and sustains all life.

Water and sun green these plants.

When the rain of compassion falls, even a desert becomes an immense, green ocean.

Thich N’hat Hanh

and a story for children about the power of working together to make change: Higgins, a Drop with a Dream

At the conclusion of the service, members of the congregation were invited to write their responsibilities for water onto paper symbolizing water drops and place the drops onto a river posted at the front of the hall. The congregation will be using this material in its consideration of next steps.


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