The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee advances human rights through grassroots collaborations.
Congregations Use Water Communion to Stand in Solidarity
October 3, 2011
We are happy to announce that 70 congregations in 25 states made the commitment to recognize the human right to water in their congregation’s Water Communion or water ceremony this September. We asked people to consider pouring an empty vessel into the communal bowl and making a simple statement such as: “This container, empty of water, reminds us of all who lack access to safe and affordable water.” Below are just a few responses we received.
Thank you to everyone who took part! Below you can read a few comments from the many that participated. By bearing witness in this way, you have helped us move one step closer to achieving this most fundamental right, through not only your actions but what you have shared with us and our community. If you did include the human right to water in your Water Communion or water ceremony and you would like to share photos, comments, or reflections with us, please do not hesitate to send them to me, Kara Smith, at mobilization @ uusc.org.
Sample statements made by participating congregations
“This container, empty of water, reminds us of all who lack access to safe and affordable water. We stand in solidarity with Unitarian Universalists in California who are calling for the human right to water…. Might we do all that we can to support water as a human right where we live and beyond.”—Rev. Dr. Jan Carlsson-Bull, “The Water of Life,” Unitarian Universalist Congregation of the Catskills, Kingston, N.Y.
“As we begin this ceremony, I will pour first from this empty bowl. This container, empty of water, reminds us of all those around the world who lack access to safe and affordable water. We stand in solidarity with all those who are calling for the human right to water — including those who are part of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee. I symbolically pour an empty vessel into the communal bowl. Let us begin the blending of the waters: Come forward now.”
— Rev. Carlton Elliott Smith at the beginning of the water communion service at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, Va.
“This empty vessel is poured to symbolize the many in the world whose lack of access to water causes them hardship and places pediments to their living healthy lives.”
— Participant in Massachusetts
“We celebrate the coming together of our church once again by the blending of these waters even as these waters remind us of the injustice that remains for those who do not have access to clean water. We affirm our commitment to them.”
—Participant in California
Reflections on the experience
“I tipped an empty container over Channing’s pool of water, to remind us of all who lack access to clean, drinkable water, whether from drought, political upheaval, or the intentional deprivation of water and its confiscation by an occupying power.”
— Participant in Rhode Island
“Director of Religious Education Martha Dallas, with the empty pitcher used at the end of our water communion ritual, engaged us in solidarity with those who do not have access to water. As noted, folks in Vermont, suffering from the ongoing flooding post-Irene, found it challenging to be reminded that drought is a great threat to so many.”
—First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington, Vt.
In Colorado, they discussed the famine in Somalia and the severe consequences of the lack of water around the world. In Indiana, they introduced the Water Ceremony with a reflection on the Human Right to Water. In Utah, they let the comments come spontaneously.
“We had an awesome water communion this year. Everyone poured their waters together, and I sent the kids out on a search for things to make the water as dirty as possible. They added their treasures into the water with great joy and glee, and then we used a lifesaver bottle to filter the water and drank it! When asked, ‘Who want’s to drink the water,’ they all raised their hands immediately!”
— Rev. Christina Neilson, Southwest Unitarian Universalist Church, North Royalton, Ohio