River Witness: Water baptizes, heals, and reminds us of our work ahead

The River Witness service welcomed members of The OR-ID and PNW Conferences to reflect on the waters that nurture life, justice, and faith. Photos by Rev. Karen Yokota Love.

By the Rev. David D.M. King | Photos by Rev. Karen Yokota Love

United Methodist clergy and laity from the shared session of The Oregon-Idaho and Pacific Northwest Annual Conferences gathered on the banks of the Columbia River shortly before noon on Saturday, June 17 to bless the river and to remember the blessing water brings to creation and human thriving.

We recalled the story of God’s spirit-wind blowing over the face of the waters at creation, bringing order and life out of chaos. We celebrated the life that water gives to all living things, and accepted our responsibility to care for those waters.

We noticed how human settlements have grown up on the banks of rivers and other bodies of water. We marveled at how the web of waterways across the planet connects the peoples of our diverse and beautiful humanity. As we sang the spiritual “Wade in the Water”, we recalled not only how the people of Israel escaped slavery in Egypt through the waters, but also how African-American slaves were liberated, disrupting their scent and track by passing through the waters. We remembered the waters of birth and the waters of baptism. We heard again the image of Revelation 22 of the Spirit of Life flowing from God’s throne, nourishing the Tree of Life that provides fruit in every season and leaves that heal the nations.

“I so appreciated the water/river blessing. For our two conferences, with a shared boundary defined in large part by the Columbia River, to gather and offer a blessing for God’s creation and for all of those connected to the river and, by extension, to people in hundreds of communities in the Columbia watershed, was powerful,” shares the Rev. Clay Andrew of Hillsboro UMC in Oregon. “I was reminded once again that our faith work is less about what happens in the walls of our buildings and more about the people of the world around us.”

The Rev. David D.M. King serves as pastor of Spirit of Grace, ELCA UMC
– A Methodist-Lutheran Cooperative Church in Hood River, Ore.
Karen Yokota Love serves as Pastor of Mason United Methodist Church in Tacoma, Wash.
Special thanks to the Rev. Karen Hernandez and Angie Kiblinger.

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