“This is going to be bad” was our first thought. My husband and sons were unable to drive out of the neighborhood because the water had risen so high. Though we have lived in Ellicott City for almost 15 years and directly experienced the downtown flood in 2016 where our car was totaled, we had never seen the water rise like this in our neighborhood. Then I saw the 12 text messages from friends and relatives from all over the country to check on us. “Oh, Lord, please not again.”
By now, most people have seen the shocking images of the devastation left, yet again, from unprecedented stormwater runoff in Ellicott City. But people were affected all over – in Catonsville and Baltimore. And, although less dramatically and not making the national news, communities in Frederick are suffering from flooding from the rain just two weeks ago. These events are happening more frequently and more intensely than ever before.
How do people of faith respond? Well, as the wonderful folks at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, St. Paul's Catholic Church and others in Ellicott City demonstrated, first you address immediate humanitarian needs, which they did with grace and generosity. But what else can congregations do?
The flooding in Ellicott City is a very complex problem that will require multi-faceted solutions. Those without hope will fold their hands and say this is a problem we can’t fix. But, others don’t debate the answers, they simply get to work. The words found in Pirkei Avot, which is part of the Jewish Mishnah, the first text of the Jewish oral law, instruct us: “Say little and do much”. And later in this text it says: “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it” (2:21).
Many congregations in IPC’s network have installed rain gardens and cisterns and planted trees to increase tree canopy and slow down rainfall. These are direct ways to help slow runoff during storms. People of faith also worked to promote a policy for protecting Maryland’s healthy forests from further development, with many people signing a petition, calling their legislators, and preparing testimony to be heard at the bill hearing. We are disappointed it did not pass in 2018, and we vow to keep working toward policies that restore balance to the web of life.
IPC offers help to congregations to answer the call to action. Check out our One Water Partnership webpage to find the details about upcoming Interfaith Nature Walks and Action Planning and Grant Writing Workshops to see firsthand what is happening to our watershed communities and how faith institutions can be part of the complex solution. Encourage members of your congregation to participate to learn and be inspired to act. This is what IPC is all about. Let’s “say little and do much” together.
We extend our prayers for recovery to all those affected in Ellicott City, Baltimore, Frederick -- to anyone touched by the ravages of stormwater.
Bonnie Sorak, Outreach Coordinator