As part of every baptism in the Episcopal Church, the priest or bishop who performs the baptism thanks God for the gift of water with the following beautiful prayer:
We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water.
Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation.
Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage
in Egypt into the land of promise. In it your Son Jesus
received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy
Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death
and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.
Baptism in water, which we associate with healing, cleansing, and salvation, is part of every Christian denomination.
Christians are not alone in our reverence for water. The Hindu religious tradition holds rivers as sacred, particularly the Ganges, in which Hindus immerse themselves for prayer rituals.
Islam requires the faithful to perform ablutions before they enter mosques and at other times as well. An image of part of the minor ablution called wudu appears below.
Most religious traditions, in short, include water as part of their sacred rituals and treat it with reverence. Water is a basic requirement for life. Humans can live weeks without food, but only days without water. We connect water with healing, with power, with cleansing. It is no wonder that faith traditions incorporate it into their most fundamental sacred rituals.
The Bible tells Christians that water is a great gift from God and reveres it as a human necessity and as a holy symbol repeatedly throughout the Old and New Testaments. In Genesis 1: 1-2, we are told that water was part of creation before anything else. Water appears as an element of power in the Great Flood and as a basic human need when the Nile turns to blood in Exodus. It is associated with spiritual healing and God’s mercy in the psalms (see Psalm 41, for example). In the New Testament, Jesus is baptized in water, heals with water, offers living water. Repeatedly, the Bible connects water to the sacred power of God.
In this class, Fletcher Harper, Executive Director of Greenfaith, an interfaith coalition that strives to enact sustainable environmental policies, discusses how Christians today should bring a reverence for water into our communities. He teaches about the challenges to water supplies that are developing throughout the world and discusses ways to develop a deeper appreciation of Christianity’s sense of water as a gift. Most importantly, Fletcher teaches about the impetus, but also the resources, that Christianity gives us to conserve water and minimize the effects of climate change.
We hope that this course moves you to preserve God’s gift of water in our world. Click below to see a preview.