Rev. Randolph Richardson, the pastor of Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church welcomed everyone (between 50-70 participants at any one time), lead us in our opening prayer and then spoke briefly about how the water crisis had affected “Trinity’s Table,” a program that serves a hot, balanced meal every Sunday (450-500 meals per Sunday) to anyone who comes through their doors.
I spoke about CJM’s views on our Christian faith and water—the significance of water on Earth and in scriptures. Folks were reminded that many Christian social principles lift up, as a matter of justice, the importance of providing access to clean, safe water for the “the least of these.” Jesus said in Matthew 10: 42 “And whoever gives one of these little ones a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”
Rev. Rose Edington and Rev. Mel Hoover (retired Unitarian Universalists pastors) recalled the leadership their congregation took during water crisis—hosting meetings, raising funds for water, marching with activists, and testifying at public hearings. Religious leaders and citizens relentlessly demanded and were successful in the passage of a strong above-ground storage tank bill.
Father Brian O’Donnell, speaking for the West Virginia Council of Churches (WVCC), reflected on their annual public policy booklet, given to each legislator, which outlines the WVCC’s stances on issues facing West Virginians, including water. Thankfully, WVCC is engaged throughout the 60-day session.
Singer-songwriter, Kate Long, strummed a transition from the faith-based to the secular portion of our forum, as we all sang “Peace Like A River” and concluded with, Mike Morningstar’s “Mountaineers are Always Free.”
Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition’s (OVEC), Robin Blakeman, who led the second portion of our program, spoke about the threat of unconventional gas extraction (fracking) and other proposed infrastructure for the gas industry. Other speakers included Gary Zuckett, WV Citizen Action Group, Angie Rosser, from WV Rivers Coalition, who provided a call to action on proposed water standards, and Karan Ireland, of the WV Environmental Council.
Four members of the West Virginia House of Delegates encouraged citizen activism to protect water. Our gratitude to Delegates Barbara Fleishauer, Mike Puskin, Evan Hansen and John Doyle who spoke about their support of strong water standards for West Virginia.
We concluded with a candlelight vigil on the banks of the Kanawha River.
“As a deer longs for living streams, as a weary travel longs for the waters of life, so our souls long for you, O God. Refresh us, cleanse us, heal us with your living water. Pour out your Spirit upon us so our lives might overflow with your love. Pour out your Spirit upon all creation so that justice might roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. Amen”
In addition to the above mentioned partners of the event, thank you to Christians for the Mountains and Call to Action on Racial Equality who were additional sponsors.
Janet Keating was an organizer of "Water: A Sacred Gift, A Human Right, and Our Stewardship Role". She owns and operates Green Shepherd, LLC & is the retired Executive Director of Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition