Go forth, but return to this community,
Where rivers of tears may be shed,
Where dry souls are watered,
Where your joy bubbles,
Where your life cup overflows,
Where deep in your spirit you have found in this place a home.
All rivers run to the sea.
~Kayle Rice (excerpt)
Money and water have much in common. –
Think of words abundance, affluence, currency, lavish, bountiful, tributaries, profusion. All derive from words describing a flowing quality, such as water…energy…resources.
Water is known as the great solvent, cleanser, and purifier. Water is a highly valued commodity, for it sustains all living things. It occurs naturally, abundant in some places, scarce in others. Similarly, money is essential to the health and wellbeing of people and communities. In today’s world, it is difficult to exist without both of these essential resources.
Among the world’s great religions, philosophical systems, and earth-based traditions, water is an essential element in the teachings and rituals. With its qualities as solvent, cleanser and purifying agent, water is has been an irresistible symbol and source of inspiration for that which sustains all living things.
Generosity is the essential and sustaining element that must flow through our faith communities so that they may prosper. Givers in the congregation are like the tributary streams that flow into the river, carrying fresh supply of vital nutrients and abundant life energy. At the same time, it is important to remember that financial resources, like water, must continue to flow through the congregation and out into the community in healthy, life-sustaining ways. For when water is stagnant, it can become unhealthy—at times toxic—and unable to nourish living things. Faith communities function in similar ways to bodies of water.
Let us consider the waters of the Middle East. The Jordan River is a major river that diverts water from the Sea of Galilee down through valley between Israel, Palestine, and Jordan. Thermal springs bring salt to the Sea of Galilee, a body of water teeming with life and vitality. The Jordan River flows over 150 miles from the Sea of Galilee, carrying six million tons of water to the lowest point on the earth’s surface and with no outlet flow, The Dead Sea. With evaporation occurring in desert heat and thermal springs around the shores of the Dead Sea, there are high concentrations of salt and magnesium. Despite these high mineral concentrations and their value as commodities, with no flow of fresh water moving through, the Dead Sea is just that: a stagnant body of water unable to support life beyond micro-organisms.
As people of faith, we must understand the elemental nature of money and enable its steady flow into and through the congregation. It is money that provides the energy for the congregation’s mission and the essential nutrients to sustain its ministries, programs, infrastructure, and outreach.
The healthy, well-resourced congregation is like a major river with its currency abundantly supplied by its tributary streams, its givers. Its ministries flow out into the community, lavishly supplying plentiful resources to its surrounding communities. Without the in-flow and out-flow of money, our congregations cannot flourish. Just as environmental stewardship is necessary to effectively manage the world’s natural resources like water, so is congregational stewardship.
Sacred texts, poetry and literature are filled with the imagery and metaphorical wisdom to be gleaned from flowing water. These offer insight and inspiration for congregations seeking to nurture a culture of generosity and promote giving as a beneficial spiritual practice:
Thou in thy narrow banks art pent:
The stream I love unbounded goes
Through flood and sea and firmament;
Through light, through life, it forward flows. (Emerson’s Two Rivers)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
At times we flow toward the Beloved like a dancing stream.
At times we are still water held in His pitcher.
At times we boil in a pot turning to vapor –
that is the job of the Beloved. (Rumi’s One Whisper of the Beloved)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
You, Blessed One, are my first love.
The love that is always present, always pure, and freshly new.
And I shall never need a love that will be called “last.”
You are the source of well-being flowing through numberless troubled lives, the water from you spiritual stream always pure, as it was in the beginning. (Thich Naht Hahn, Call me by my true names)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Like the water of a deep stream,
love is always too much.
We did not make it.
Though we drink till we burst,
we cannot have it all, or want it all.
In its abundance it survives our thirst. (Wendell Berry Like the Water)
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Resources for Nurturing Generosity and Congregational Stewardship: http: //www.uua.org/finance/fundraising/generosity/index.shtml
Shick, Stephen. Be The Change: Poems, Prayers & Meditations for Peacemakers & Justice Seekers. 2009. Skinner House Books. (several readings featuring water imagery.)
Rice, Kayle. All Rivers Run to the Sea http://www.uua.org/worship/words/closings/submissions/151326.shtml
Worship Resources, including Water Communion Ceremonies: http://www.uua.org/worship/holidays/174532.shtml
Water Justice Resources: http://www.uusc.org/environmentaljustice http://www.unicef.org/wash/index_3951.html