Flint Water Emergency

Rev. Debra Conrad, Woodside Church, Flint, Mi.  A dynamic place, Woodside is a multicultural congregation in partnership with two exciting denominations – The United Church of Christ and the American Baptist Churches.

You may have heard we have some issues here. While we work on getting safe and affordable water to all the residents of the city, it is also critical that people of faith have a clear understanding of how this could happen, so that we can agitate, Jesus-style, for better public policies and a greater regard for the common good.


  1. Send donations of money to Woodside, marked “water.” We are working to set up “re-filling stations” in our church, to make free, filtered water available to the community in whatever size containers they would like. Send contributions to: Woodside Church, 1509 E Court St, Flint MI 48503.
  2. Volunteer. Woodside’s partner activists and organizers are working especially to ensure that the most marginalized populations are getting services — the poorest, the ones in public housing, those who may lack proper documentation, those who speak something other than English. The ones most likely to fall through the gaps. There is a particular need for folks able to speak Arabic andSpanish. This form will let our partner organizations (primarily the Flint Democracy Defense League) know you’re available and keep you aware of the ongoing activities.
  3. Read, learn and share information. Form book groups. Print excerpts in newsletters (always credit the author). Discern how you can respond as advocates of the gospel. Below is a starting point. Some are short enough for a Sunday morning forum; others are full-length books, well worth your time.
  4. Be aware of your own privilege. (A really good approach for whatever situation you want to help with.)
    1. Please email (rather than phone) your willingness to help, and be patient if we don’t respond quickly enough.
    2. People in Flint are going through a lot, emotionally as well as logistically. We’re angry, confused, frustrated, hopeful, exhausted. Sometimes we simply cannot muster gratitude as well. Please believe that we appreciate being in community, and give us a break when we don’t say thanks. Thanks.
    3. Please don’t just show up and ask us to re-arrange our days to accommodate you.
    4. Please don’t send us things we didn’t ask for and can’t use. Money is easiest, because it lets us respond to the ever-shifting reality here. Choose a church or charity you trust, and send them as much money as you can.
    5. Please don’t put conditions on your gifts.
    6. Please don’t judge our ideas or contradict our requests. We are in constant communication with folks who know, and we are pretty sure we have a handle on what is needed.
  5. Consider the difference between justice and charity. Charity is about donations (like water and money), but justice is about building relationships, hearing the voices from the community, and changing the systems that got us into this in the first place. Which leads us to…
  6. Advocate. Government officials have been incredibly slow to act.
    1. We need water that doesn’t come in single bottles! The World Health Organization estimates 100-200 liters per person per day is required for health and well-being. We need dozens of tanker trucks combing the neighborhoods, allowing residents to refill 1-, 2- and 5-gallon bottles. Tell leaders to send “water buffaloes” sufficient to hydrate and sanitize this city.
    2. We need people to staff distribution centers and field phone calls. Tell leaders that chunks of that emergency money should be used to hire unemployed Flint residents to do these vitals tasks.
    3. We need new infrastructure. While the expert we trust (Dr. Marc Edwards of Virginia Tech) tells us that we have to rehabilitate the water before we replace the pipes, we know there are things to be done in the meantime, like organizing 45,000 index cards that show us where the lead pipes may be. Tell leaders to stop wasting time and start making real preparation for placing new pipes. And don’t forget to mention that they should hire and train local residents for these long-term projects.
    4. Vote, and let your elected officials know that you’re basing your ballot on a renewed commitment to the Common Good!






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