Have we ever really stopped to think about how much water has shaped the course of history? How much the use of water shapes our daily routines? How access to clean water is a given in some places in the world and such a crisis in others?
Delegates to the 2013 Joint Assembly for the Anglican Church of Canada and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada were challenged to think about these things in an event led by the youth. They took us to “The Hill” in Ottawa, and in a liturgy focused on “The Right to Water” invited us into the aboriginal way of praying in the four directions.
As we prayed to the north, we were facing the Peace Tower and the Ottawa River. We thought of the great river systems across this vast land. Rivers have made us what we are. They connect us. Praying to the east, we thought of how water has provided a way forward for so many people to migrate to this land, in the hope of welcome, sanctuary and new opportunities. Praying to the south, we viewed the sweep of the national capital city and thought of how the daily life, business and recreation of a city are supported by the water systems beneath its streets. Praying to the west, we thought of the rural communities all across Canada and how dependent we are on water for farming and food production.
Then, many metres of shimmering blue fabric were run down through the crowds. As the fabric made its way over the heads of the people, it had the appearance of a beautiful river, the sunlight dancing off its every ripple and wave. From where I stood, the moment had the very feel of the prophet’s cry, “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever flowing stream” (Amos 5:24).
Every one of us left the Hill that morning more conscious then ever of the “right to water” being as basic as the right to food, shelter and adequate health care.
It was a memorable moment in an assembly of Anglicans and Lutherans gathered “Together for the love of the world.”
ARCHBISHOP FRED HILTZ is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.