cleansing

'Rev. Riverkeeper'

THE ANACOSTIA RIVER is a river of contrasts. Often called “the nation’s forgotten river,” it flows for eight-and-a-half miles through some of the richest and poorest communities in and around D.C., through residential and industrial zones, through marshes and military installations. In fact, the federal government owns so much land in the watershed that when all those federal toilets flush during a heavy rain, they drain directly into the river.

The Anacostia River watershed is home to more than 800,000 people, 43 species of fish, and nearly 200 species of birds—including our nation’s symbol, the bald eagle, and the majestic great blue heron. Yet the trash in the river is so deep and wide at times that you’re just as likely to see a heron walking across a flotilla of trash rather than flying over the water.

As the Anacostia Riverkeeper—part of the Waterkeeper Alliance movement to protect local waterways—it was my job for three years to be the eyes, ears, and voice of its watershed. Of the nearly 200 waterkeepers worldwide, I was the only riverkeeper who was also a minister. I was called “Rev. Riverkeeper.”

The antiquated sewer system that pumps more than 2 billion gallons of raw sewage, mixed with polluted runoff, into the river each year is not just a shame, it’s a sin. African-American churches along the Anacostia used to baptize their members in the river. Nowadays, the river wouldn’t wash away anyone’s sins. My goal as Rev. Riverkeeper was an Anacostia that was not only “fishable” and “swimmable”—as required by the Clean Water Act—but also “baptizable.”

THE ANACOSTIA RIVER is in desperate need of healing. “How has one river fallen so far from grace?” asked one community leader.

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10 Bible Verses about Water

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Water not only sustains our bodies and communities, but also is an integral part of our spiritual lives. The Bible is rich with images of water that symbolize new life, cleansing, and the fulfillment of God’s promises. Check out Reta Halteman Finger’s Bible study "A River Runs Through It" (Sojourners, November 2013) to trace how water flows throughout the New Testament.

To see just a few of the ways that water trickles and gushes through God’s word, reflect on these 10 passages:

2 Samuel 14:14

"We must all die; we are like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up.”

Psalm 65:9

"You visit the earth and water it,
you greatly enrich it;
the river of God is full of water;
you provide the people with grain,
for so you have prepared it.”

Proverbs 25:25

“Like cold water to a thirsty soul,so is good news from a far country.”

Isaiah 33:15-16

“Those who walk righteously and speak uprightly,
who despise the gain of oppression,
who wave away a bribe instead of accepting it,
who stop their ears from hearing of bloodshed
and shut their eyes from looking on evil,
they will live on the heights;
their refuge will be the fortresses of rocks;
their food will be supplied, their water assured.”

Jeremiah 2:13

“For my people have committed two evils:they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out cisterns for themselves, cracked cisterns that can hold no water.”

Amos 5:24

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