I got a rather disturbing e-mail the other day from our Regional Conference Minister (RCM). Our church is part of the Florida Conference of the United Church of Christ, and our region covers the Gulf Coast of Florida. Our RCM had just spent some time in Pensacola Beach and she reported on the conditions there as the oil from Deepwater Horizon finds its way to the Panhandle. She spoke about the specially trained workers who are cleaning up the beaches. She mentioned the drop in tourism. She spoke of shells picked up from the sand, coated with oil. And she talked about how at her hotel "there were tubs of soap, water and scrub brushes because no matter what you did to avoid the stuff it was on your feet."
Here on Sanibel we haven't been hit yet by the slick. We are preparing for it. My wife and I signed up to be part of the Community Coastal Watch effort last week. This is a community where most everybody volunteers. But our watching over the coastline, and the much more rigorous efforts of those who are engaged in the clean up efforts, won't, in the end, save everything. The reality is clear: some things will be lost in all of this. Marshlands. Birds. Fish. Jobs. And they may never be replaced. The effects of the oil spill can't be simply washed off with soap and water.
But for all that, I'm not willing to give in to despair. I am concerned, of course. But I hold out hope that we can learn some valuable lessons from all this. I hold out hope that we can finally come to realize that the earth's resources are not limitless, but rather need to be handled as the fragile gifts that they are.
I take a measure of comfort in something William Sloane Coffin once wrote: "If you believe, as many believers do, in a politically engaged spirituality, and you are trying to save the environment . . . you're bound at times to feel like quitting. But if Jesus never allowed his soul to be cornered into despair . . . who then are we to quit 'fighting the good fight of faith.'" (Credo, 114)
Let's keep fighting the good fight. Let's keep washing one another's feet--but let's also keep marching, praying, working for that day when we all realize what a precious gift we've been given!