Sewage and death.
Conversations on the internet tend to end with someone being compared to a Nazi; conversations with me end up with sewage or death. They often begin there too.
In my defense, they are fascinating topics to dwarf all small talk. My husband is a police officer and I’m a pastor so we’re kind of a buzzkill when we show up to a party so I like to frost that with a little death and sewage and skip the weather reports.
The waste water treatment plant (previously called sewage treatment, but they are in the phase of rebranding) is one of my favorite field trips with the church youth. I use it in our unit on baptism. Let me take a quick moment as part of my debt to the staff there who have accompanied lots of gagging middle schoolers - flushable wipes should never be flushed as well as the countless other things that go down our drains. Don’t do it or I will go into great detail about 275 yard fat blobs clogging London’s sewers with flushable wipes cemented in oil like armor on a poop armadillo. 1
The middle schoolers probably don’t retain much other than dispelling the American myth of our waste magically disappears and learning “cake” has a very different meaning in the sewage world. There is no magic. Everything that is created continues to exist, but there is transformation and there are ways to be made new. Check out Singapore’s “NEWater” if you don’t believe me. 2
I’m not a biologist, but I do find it remarkable that bacteria and UV light do the heavy work of transforming waste water into something that can re-enter the circle of life without making us all sick. There is no bleach or heavy chemicals to be found. That is startling because we put so much trust in annihilation and so little trust in transformation. It’s life enriching to read about how our waste is processed, but I won’t delve any further since this is a theology primer.
1 Pipe Dreams: The Urgent Global Quest To Transform The Toilet. Chelsea Wald