By Bob Hulteen
“In the beginning, God created … “ What a profound context we reside in – God’s creation. And we are all “the created,” siblings directly with all people, but related as well to all living things. We are all of the stuff that God brought into existence, from igneous rock to sperm whale.
I remember first hearing the phrase Mitakuye oyasin – “for all my relations” – from hometown Dakota friends while I was still in college. I can no longer listen to the creation stories in Christian sacred scriptures without this image of connectedness and ultimate relationship.
Too often we forget that. Sometimes we are even encouraged to forget. Seasons of polarization and divisiveness, as we experienced in the recent period of elections, can create forgetfulness of ultimate truths (perhaps because it is to the advantage of some individuals for most of us to see differences rather than unifying factors).
Religious people can be manipulated in times such as this. We can identify more deeply with people from our own group affiliation rather than with the promise from Genesis that we are all related. Ecumenism itself then becomes countercultural by encouraging us to draw the circle wider than our reptilian tendencies normally encourage.
EARLY IN NOVEMBER, members of United Methodist (UMC), Episcopal (ECMN), African Methodist Episcopal (AME), and Lutheran churches gathered together in Faribault to learn skills about community organizing in order to be better stewards of our shared creation. We sang, we shared, we role-played, we laughed, some of us danced. (Don’t ask, please.) And, we realized we could develop a shared language around care for the water so abundant (and yet fragile) in our own state.
Why do we care about the quality of our water? Well, it is elemental; we all need it to survive. But, as faith communities, we also use it for our initiation rituals – baptism. Scripture is full of essential stories of faith with connections to water – from the crossing out of enslavement in Egypt to the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch seeking to join the Jesus movement.
“Our AME siblings reminded the group about water justice, especially in the current reality facing residents of Flint and Detroit, Michigan.”
Our AME siblings reminded the group about water justice, especially in the current reality facing residents of Flint and Detroit, Michigan. Through no fault of their own, these citizens are forced to live out of bottled water, paying private companies for water taken directly from water sources that formerly provided them with free (via public) water.
At this November training, participants agreed to be part of a “Gather at the River” event that includes education and worship on December 13. Bishops and bishop-equivalents of the Minneapolis Area Synod, the AME, the UMC, and the ECMN will offer leadership as we learn about water and praise our Creator for the gift of water, as well as cry for water justice for those who are often the first to experience when our systems break.
Please save the date for the early evening of December 13 to join us; more information will follow in an upcoming synod enews. Or, contact Grace Corbin, firstname.lastname@example.org, to express your interest. Celebrate our shared water systems and, even more deeply, our connected to all of creation. Do it for “all of our relations.”