Martin B. Copenhaver
"Have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." - From Genesis 1
When I first visited Wellesley, a member of the Search Committee gave me a tour of the town. We drove by schools, ventured into some of the neighborhoods, and then we toured the Recycling and Disposal Facility, otherwise known as "The Dump." At the time, it seemed like an odd stop to make. I soon learned, however, that in many ways The Dump is the center of the town, something like the town green. It is where politicians come to make their pitches, public advocates get their petitions signed, and where Girl Scouts sell their cookies.
Everyone goes to The Dump. Hardly anyone in our town has their trash collected curbside. That would be considered irresponsible, if not downright gauche.
At The Dump there are at least 30 different categories of recyclables, each with its own bin, so sorting provides ample opportunity for reflection.
I used to wonder why our town doesn't pick up trash and recyclables curbside. After all, it can't be good for the environment to have a line-up of SUVs all waiting to get to The Dump, then idling while trash is deposited.
Nevertheless, I have concluded it is good that we are expected to bring our own trash to The Dump. If someone explains how many parts per million of carbon dioxide is dangerous for human life, I will mostly understand what is being said and I will appreciate the urgency on an intellectual basis.
For me, however, none of that brings home the crisis of the environment quite like loading up my car and taking trash and recyclables to The Dump. It is not just a chance to see some people I know. It is also an opportunity to see myself and my consuming ways as nothing else does. So when I drive away, I sometimes offer a prayer of confession.
God, hear my confession: Often I consume the world's resources as if the earth were my own, rather than yours. Give me a renewed sense that I am a steward of your creation.
Martin B. Copenhaver is Senior Pastor, Wellesley Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, Wellesley, Massachusetts. He is the author, with Lillian Daniel, of This Odd and Wondrous Calling: the Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers.