On Pilgrimage: day 4, the sinkhole

On Pilgrimage: day 4, the sinkhole

This morning, the Pipeline Pilgrimage encountered our first real challenge since hitting the road. Sue walked out to her Ford Taurus in the parking lot of UCC Conway to find that a massive sinkhole had appeared beneath her car overnight.
From a distance, the sinkhole looked bad enough – 4 feet across, directly beneath the frame, and alarmingly close to the tires. Upon standing by the edge, one saw the situation was much more treacherous. The offending hole was some eight feet deep, dropping down to the septic tank, which had been exposed by a split in the concrete casement. The ground threatened further collapse in the day’s early moisture, the earth peeling away near the front left tire, a precarious two foot mud overhang that could give way suddenly.

Five harried minutes of dressing and lacing boots and a minute of astounded head scratching followed Sue’s call-to-action, and then the pilgrims leapt into action. A few of us proposed an attempt to drive around the hole, but the turn radius was too wide. We considered knocking on doors to find boards to bridge the hole, but given the overhang this attempt might, too, land Sue’s car in deep sh!t. This really left us only one other option: we had to pick up the car and move it away from the collapsed ground by hand.
So we pried our fingers beneath the tailgate of the car, and after a few minutes of grunting, straining, and “one, two, three,” managed to rotate the rear and then the front of the vehicle clear of the hole. Jay drove the car to safety, and we posted stantions around the perimeter of the collapse. Hoots, hollers, and earnest hallelujahs at our success reverberated down Whatley Street. The buzz of celebratory relief in the air was liquid thick. The whole experience seem unreal in retrospect.
Just after, as we tried to breathe out our adrenaline shakes during morning worship, Sue brought to bear the day’s early excitement as an analogy for climate change. In so many words, she spoke of a tendency to face her problems individually. Yet the situation with her car and the septic sinkhole was obviously impossible to face alone. Climate change, too, she expounded, is far too immense a problem for any one of us to take on individually. Without thoughtful coordination, even the most impassioned attempt to face climate change won’t budge our world from the risk of collapse, but it might well strain your fingers and throw out your back.
Faith can move mountains. Pilgrims under pressure can move a Ford Taurus. If we orient ourselves towards the correct hopes, and coordinate ourselves in community, we might just be able to move ourselves away from collapse, before the earth gives way fully beneath.
(Note: When several pilgrims returned to Conway to pick up their cars, the whole church parking lot had been cordoned off. A prayer from us to United Congregational Church in Conway that Easter joy might be found despite this moment of tomb.)


Patrick Cage

Patrick Cage served as environmental intern at the Massachusetts Conference, UCC for six months in early 2015.  He is a recent graduate of Yale College where he was an environmental studies major with a concentration in religion and the environment,

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