The facts bear witness to a tragedy of epic proportions for a city, its families and its future- undrinkable, poison-laced water, children irreversibly damaged mentally and physically, and incompetent lawmakers charged with knowing the damage they were causing.
News magazine articles and television will keep adding new painful textures to the nightmare - a four year old water crisis for both Flint and the nation. Congressional hearings will seek to hold authorities accountable while medical, mental health and educational experts seek to determine what will happen next.
But look at those in charge of spiritual care in this blue collar community northwest of Detroit, and you will see a movement underway. It is a mission of caring designed by those unwilling to wait for city and government officials to take notice. It is an example of how to be the church.
Yes, there will be prayers. Yes, there will be fasting. And there will also be opportunities that United Methodist Churches in the region are seizing, to reach not only their constituents, but also to all people.
In a letter to the Detroit conference Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey of the Michigan area detailed relief efforts that began last fall when the crisis went public:
- A $10,000 UMCOR emergency grant for eight UM congregations to start Water Resource Centers;
- A call to deal with the systemic issues of racism and poverty that further underscores the inhumanity of the Flint debacle.
Bishop Lieder Kiesey has visited many of the churches in the Flint community and in turn, has seen those churches reach out, door to door to thousands of residents.
A local pastor looks over the hallways filled with bottled water and shares with a conference communicator that before the year is out he will have visited every house surrounding his church with water kits.
Lieder-Kiesey knows her conference will be committed to this movement of caring for years to come.
"As United Methodists in Michigan, I believe we must be part of those long term solutions; we must be amount those who are first on the scene and the last to leave."
In her open letter to Michigan United Methodists she urged the Church to respond in the following ways:
- Earnestly and fervently pray for the people of Flint and for all or elected officials.
- Offer your time, talents and presence. The opportunities to serve in Flint are developing day-by-day and will continue for the foreseeable future.
- Designate a Sunday between now and Easter when your congregation will receive an offering for the people of Flint. Gifts from individuals, small groups, congregations and other organizations and agencies will enable continued short-term assistance and lay the foundation for a long-term response.
Is there anything good that can come from Flint Michigan? Look to the church community, including the 442 churches in the Detroit conference and you will see the answer: yes!
Jeneane Jones, freelance writer, Washington, DC
One of seven apportioned giving opportunities of The United Methodist Church, the Episcopal Fund pays for bishops' salaries, office and travel expenses, and pension and health-benefit coverage. Please encourage your leaders and congregations to support the Episcopal Fund apportionment at 100 percent.