The Plumb Line

By Rev. Roslyn Bouier (above on the mic), the Executive Director of the Brightmoor Connection Food Pantry, Pastor of Trinity-St. Mark’s, UCC, and new church start founder The Beloved Community, UCC. These remarks were given at a press conference yesterday (July 7, 2022) where community leaders called out the latest counterfeit report coming from the Detroit water department, which has shut-off water to more than 170,000 homes over the past decade. The water department just approved an “affordability plan” with little input from experts and few details about how it will be funded and implemented. They refuse to release the full plan to the public.

I am a frontline provider—

I am a Detroit resident—

I am a pastor—

Community leader, advocate for food, water, housing, and basic needs—

I am a mother, grandmother—

But above all of these I am first and foremost a human-being and responsible for my neighbor and doesn’t that count for something?

I have come here this morning to lift up the oppressive burden, that has been unjustly placed upon families, mothers, most specifically black mothers’ / caregivers in our community.

There is a foulness in the air, the stench that is strangling our community,

There is an all too familiar dryness in our throats, and our souls this day—

This dryness, this barrenness is the result of the impact of long-term, decades of water hoarding / water rationing / water privilege by this administration.

Water insecurity—like food and housing insecurity has become the norm in our society

There is a moral issue here today—

I have been asked to speak about—

The impact of water insecurity on the community—mothers’ fear of having children taken—

I thought, I can do that—

I have watched mothers lose their children due to lack of having water in their homes through no fault of their own.

Brightmoor Connection Food Pantry raised over $186,000 to pay water bills, utility bills, water restoration, housing and for any legal expenses. It began in April 2020—that was the day our volunteers and myself was on the parking lot passing out food at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.

I need to qualify that pandemic as Covid-19 pandemic—because prior to Covid-19 we in community was well aware of a pandemic that already was ravaging our communities—

Water Insecurity is a man-made pandemic—

It brought on Hep-A

Skin diseases—

Children ripped from their homes—

Shame and guilt—

Intentionally destroying home and well-being—

$186,000.00 is not much—

but when you have to look into the faces of mothers terrified of losing their children—

When you are forced to share space with someone feeling so ashamed and degraded with the stigma of not having the ability to pay their bill—

It should cause a tenderness and transparency of the heart.

Morally—we all should be moved to do all we can.

Then I was asked to speak briefly on the:

The Longevity of having to distribute water because there has been no viable plan for the community—

I thought I can do that—

This is something the Brightmoor Connection is well aware of—

We have been distributing water in community for the past 8 years.

It began one hot summer day when two little black boys in Brightmoor came looking to fill their water jugs from our outer spickets—

And they were in need of water—

In that day we found out that 1000’s in this community had been shut off and so we reached out to WTP and began what we water warriors tenderly call—”moving water.”

Water is the heaviest thing I have ever moved—both physically, mentally, emotionally but above all spiritually.

I have seen first hand the damaging impact of water being disconnected from the physical, emotional, mental all horrific but there is a gravity of insurmountable loss experienced within the spirit of someone when they are cut off from the life-giving, healing, restorative Ness of water.

It is the balm for all of our souls—it connects us all—

Then finally I was asked to speak about the Impact of water rationing, given multi-family homes, the housing crisis, over-taxation.

I said of course I can do that—

In Brightmoor, which sits in the Northwest section of Detroit, the third poorest community in the nation—well below 200% poverty level.

Where families share the little space they have—multi-family units, nieces, and nephews are brought in, neighbors and their kids, blended families—

You know—community—

So now with this propped up water rationing plan—which is all it has ever been—just now we see guidelines and perimeters enacted—

We all know what this will lead to—

The blended homes and family units, the community of little that has been sharing and giving their all will now police their love and compassion of neighbor / other to stay within the rationing guidelines—

The over-taxation of our homes and the capturing of tax-benefits at the expense of our communities—

Rationing off our dignity, agency, and self-determination—

That is what this administration is doing, that is what this so-called non-transparent plan offers—

It is not a “life-line.”

But my time is up this morning—

I have to sit down—

But I need to say to this administration—

God will not be mocked—

I can hear the Prophet Amos declare the oracles of Woe:

Then as now the religiosity of wealth became the most important aspect of service—the powerful and the wealthy hurt the weak and claimed it was due to God blessing them and empowering them—

Then and now the wealthy, the leadership believed that their own power were signs that God was blessing them at the expense of and not considering the damage at the expense of others.

They exploited the people then and now—

Who sit on the margins of our society—this is a moral issue—

This is about what is right, just and fair—

When we exploit others we use them to our advantage, Mr. Brown, Mr. Mayor, DWSD water commission, to satisfy our own desires and objectives, disregarding the damage that we willingly look over.

With the prophet Amos then and now it is economic exploitation as well as exploitation of the agency of the poor.

But when God got tired God said, “I am setting a plumb line, and I will spare no more.”

You see the Lord was standing by a plumb wall with a plumb line in his hand. The word “standing,” used here is translated as “stationing myself.”

God said I am stationing myself—

Which connotes a posture of firmness and determination—

A plumb line is a standard by which a wall’s vertical trueness is tested—

The Lord was testing then and now the people by a standard.

In the first two visions there was no standard given. Therefore, the threatened judgement could be withdrawn—

But here in Amos, chapter 7 after the plumb line vision, the Lord could not be accused of arbitrariness—

The people then and now failed to live up to their privilege as people of God. They gave lip service to the social concerns but ignored and failed to act morally. When the test came, they were found wanting—

I would warn this administration—this life-line plan you speak of—be careful—

I would be more concerned about the plumb line.

Be on notice, God has set the plumb line—your vertical trueness is being tested.

Consider making a financial contribution to Brightmoor Connection Food Pantry.

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