Churches have a responsibility to do our part and lead by example in caring for our natural resources. Our scriptures and our faith tradition affirm the natural world as part of the magnificent creation that God has declared good. Throughout the Bible water is linked to the creative, saving work of God and is often used as a symbol of new life and rebirth because it cleans and refreshes and nourishes all that it touches. Polluted water loses its practical and symbolic function. The Biblical text is consistent with science in recognizing that water was part of God’s creation before the human creature evolved and that clean water is necessary for all life. Therefore churches, as responsible stewards, have a moral and ethical responsibility to protect our waters from substances and activities that would pollute and degrade them. My congregation, and scores of others like us, began addressing storm water runoff long before the fee was approved because it was the good and responsible thing to do. As we have learned more about the effects of polluted runoff and the scope and expense of mitigation we understand the fee as another way to do our part in protecting God’s gift of water. Paying this fee is a demonstrated commitment of our role as environmental stewards.
As Christians we also affirm that we are part of a larger community that should serve the common good. We are taught in both the Old and New Testaments that it is our moral obligation to love our neighbor. The Chesapeake Bay is a resource that is vital to the health and wellbeing of all people in our region. It provides food, jobs, and recreational opportunities that enhance life for everyone. But that will not be true if the Bay’s health continues to deteriorate. Our mandate to love and care for all is compromised if we do not do our part in insuring that this important resource remains a vital and viable part of our economic and social structures.
The ecumenical community in Maryland is not lobbying for repeal or modification of the storm water legislation but does welcome the current efforts of the local governments to work with us for a common goal. The disparity in the fee structures of local jurisdictions have presented challenges and how to create the most effective partnering is part of an ongoing conversation sponsored by organizations, such as Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake, along with several denominational groups. But we are entering the conversations as partners, not adversaries. Furthermore, by encouraging congregations to do their own storm water control local governments are supporting us in our efforts to model practices that, if more widely adopted would make a real impact in helping to protect our Bay. It’s a win/win. Why would anyone who cares about our Bay, our economy and its people, object to a creative and mutually supportive church/county partnership that works toward a common goal for the people and the waters of Maryland?
Rev. Mary D. Gaut is Pastor of Maryland Presbyterian Church, Towson and a 2014 Greenfaith Fellow