Presented February 10th, 2019
Many years ago I visited my cousin in Cornwall, England. She lived with her family in a farmhouse beside a main road, surrounded by fields and cows.
One morning, she asked me to come with her as she wanted to show me something. We waited for the cars to pass, scrambled over a fence, and trudged in knee high grass along the edge of a damp, muddy field filled with cows.
I began to wonder what she wanted to show me, because I had seen cows before.
She walked around a small group of trees, scrambled down a bank, bent over and motioned me close.
In the shadows of the earth was a small smooth stone enclosure no more than five feet tall. Inside were two stone seats across from one another. At the back was a spring, the water flowing out of the earth into a stone trench.
My cousin had brought me to one of the ancient holy wells of Cornwall. Sacred springs were venerated by the Celts, and turned to for blessings.
From the small stone seat I looked out over the fields, a view not very much changed in a thousand years. The water, the stone, the grass, smelt fresh and tangy. It felt like a place of caring shelter.
I wondered what it must have been like, living in a time when water was a gift from the ground, flowing freely, honoured and protected.
I’ve only drunk fresh water from the earth a few times in my life. At the holy well in Cornwall, from a fresh spring beside the Grand River, and on a couple of camping trips to remote areas.
When I stop and think about it, the fact that I have so rarely drunk fresh flowing water seems like an enormous loss in ways I don’t fully understand. It’s seems sad that this gift of life has to be treated and tested, before we can access it. And it can feel more like another human creation instead of an elemental source, an astonishing gift.
I do want water that is purified and tested – it’s necessary in a society that produces all manners of pollutants.
From the plastic bags that kill sea creatures like turtles who mistake them for jellyfish,
to the microplastics in cleansers that go directly down the drain,
to the medications that go through our bloodstreams and into the water,
to the industrial pollutants that foul up the water table to the oil spills that devastate cormorants,
we pollute the waters of the world.
It’s awful. It’s overwhelming. And each of us is complicit with the plastics we use, the clothes we wear, the cars we drive. There is no way not to be.
Chances are pretty good that a piece of plastic you’ve used is now in the ocean.
The great pacific plastic patch is one of five areas of accumulated plastics in the oceans.
It covers an area the size of three Frances. Three Frances!It’s estimated that there are 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic in the patch. Some the plastics are from the 70s and more plastics join it everyday. Plastics break down into small pieces but don’t degrade into the original elements. Indigestible plastics in the ocean harm sea life from the largest creatures to the smallest microorganisms. Source: Ocean Cleanup
And it’s not just the oceans.
We are polluting and using up the world’s fresh water supplies. People in countries all over the world, even here in Canada, don’t have fresh drinking water. Many First Nations communities, including the Six Nations territory in Brantford don’t have full access to clean water.
And I haven’t even mentioned the rising sea levels due to climate change, which is melting arctic and Antarctic ice at increasingly rapid rates, which will soon put places like the Maldive Islands completely under water.
It makes me sad that we have shifted so completely from venerating sacred springs to endlessly polluting oceans.
I believe a greater sense of sacred is needed.
That an abiding sense of love for water is needed to sustain shifting to a culture of water healers.
I am not the only Unitarian Universalist who feels this way. Our national denomination, the Canadian Unitarian Council, has chosen water to be our nation wide social justice issue.
The Unitarian Congregation in Mississauga is now part of a broader group of UUs, participating in The Ripple Effect.
The tagline is “Be the pebble in the pond creates the ripple for change.”
People of the chalice from across the country are invited to join The Ripple Effect as individuals and communities. We can be more mindful in our water use, advocate for water protection, and celebrate the wonders of water.
For Sharing our faith month, a resource packet for worship has been created that is all about water. Judy used a meditation from it this morning.
Both our individual and collective actions matter. We can be the pebble in the pond causing ripples for change.
Just look at Boyan Slat. The young Dutch activist founded a non-profit called The Ocean Cleanup five years ago in order to clean plastics out of the ocean. He is a pebble creating ripples of change.
Beginning with a viral TED talk and crowdfunding, the Ocean Cleanup organization has done extensive research on the great pacific plastics patch and created experimental technology.
As an engineering student, Slat developed a passive cleaning system using ocean currents which pulls the plastics into a boomed containment area while allowing sea life to simply swim away.
From vision into reality, creating new technologies in five short years, Slat is dedicated to removing plastics from the oceans. He is only 24 years old.
In September last year, the system began its first trial run in the plastics patch. The boom system is attracting and containing plastics but can’t hold onto the plastics long enough for removal. Ocean Cleanup has brought it back to land to work on refining it.
It is early days, but Slat and Ocean Cleanup give me a great sense of hope. At 19, he created an organization to solve an enormous global problem, not to make money, or sell a gadget, but to simply heal the waters. Slat realized no one else was doing this work, saying it couldn’t be done, so he decided it was his work to do.
Now we aren’t all going to come up with large scale solutions to global problems, but small actions add up into big changes.
We can all find work that is ours to do.
Look at those water fountains that allow you to refill water bottles and count the number of plastic bottles it replaces. The one at the Brampton YMCA is at over 40,000 bottles saved.
Our Green Sanctuary focus is on water issues, both locally in this watershed of the Credit River, as well as provincially and federally.
I encourage all of you to participate in our Green Sanctuary work, it’s as simple as reading Pamela’s green tip of the week and making small changes.
You could reduce the use of plastic – avoid plastic straws, bring your own take home containers, and buy products with less packaging.
You can reduce our use of fresh water. By eating less meat and more vegetarian meals, you save water. Twenty meat free meals saves 500 pitchers of water.
In the next few months we will continue to explore ways to reduce our carbon footprint and change our water habits, seeking ways to act for an equitable, sustainable world.
At the end of April we will host a Reconciliation in the Watershed workshop from KAIROS, who did the blanket exercise with us a few years ago. This workshop helps us better understand our local watershed as well as continue with our reconciliation work with indigenous peoples. I encourage all of you to register for this keystone Green Sanctuary event.
We will also be hosting after service activities, beginning today with a focus on bottled water, as well as an enviro-drum workshop in early April.
Our individual actions add up and make a difference.
We can all find work that is ours to do.
Each step towards healing our waters helps.
However small the step, it brings us a little bit closer to a future where the waters of the world are healthy.
I began this morning speaking of a sacred spring in Cornwall. A small, once beloved spring in a remote part of an island country. A close up of the world’s waters – flowing clean and clear.
But if we draw back from that stream, and keep drawing back, we see more water – the English channel, and then, farther back, the Atlantic, and farther back, the whole watery world.
Think of the famous Earthrise photo, taken by the Apollo 17 crew in December of 1972. As they travelled towards the moon, they looked back and saw the earth. It hangs in the darkness, the continent of Africa curving across the horizon, heavy clouds covering Antarctica.
For the astronauts, it looked like a glass marble. Green and Blue. Swirls and Light.
A small ball of life surrounded by an immensity of space. Our home, the big blue marble.
You received a small blue marble when you first came in. Marine biologist Wallace J Nichols has been working to heal the waters of the world for many years. He created the Blue Marble Project as a way to remind people of their gratitude for water.
Please hold the marble out at arm’s length in front of you. Hold it out at and look at it. That little blue marble looks like earth from a million miles away. A small, blue, watery dot in the vastness of space.
Bring the marble close to your eye and look at the light through it.
It’s as if you’re beneath the water. If the marble was actually made of seawater, it would contain trace amounts of virtually every element. It would hold hundreds of thousands of tiny organisms – plankton, larvae, single-celled creatures – just in that little ball.
Water which is essential for all life.
Now bring that marble to your heart. Offer your gratitude to water, to the earth, to all the elements essential to life.
Keep this marble with you for awhile, reminding you of the wonder of water on this planet.
And when it’s time, give the marble away.
Give it someone in your life who you are grateful for, someone who is helping heal the waters of the world or helping you.
Someone you are grateful to for their help, in ways large or small. When you are ready, pass the marble on, with gratitude, and with this story about the wonders of water.
This story of this little blue planet and caring for water, and caring for one another.
The blue marble is a reminder to all of us to be grateful for this earth and each other. We need loving gratitude to sustain this work and sustain this world.
As we continue our Green Sanctuary work into the coming months, I invite all of you to live with attention to the water around you.
Pay attention to the water in your life – from water in the faucets to Lake Ontario to puddles on the sidewalks – wherever you see water, take a moment to pause, notice and be glad.
May we find love for the waters of the world.
May we care for water and keep it healthy.
May we take action to heal the waters.
So Say We All.