Throw your garbage here!! says one church

Rev. Dwight Lee Wolter of the Congregational Church of Patchogue, Long Island, New York, shares a dramatic and tangible statement of his faith community. Remember Dwight? Among many other things, he brought us at Gifts in Open Hands the “Blessing of the Toilet Paper” a gathering of, yes, TP, pampers, depends, tampons, paper towels — all the true necessities which are not available on food stamps. A huge success at his church (and mine), people who follow this blog have participated in this “fool for Christ” liturgical event all over the world. Now he writes about his church’s new willingness to care for others — in this case the earth — by a slightly shocking invitation. I give you his own words about loving the litter on the church lawn.


Last summer, “Alive After 5” (AA5) in Patchogue attracted over 25,000 people. Organizers know exactly where each vendor will be located, each security guard will be stationed; where every musician, poet, painter, and portable toilet will be situated. The police and fire departments and elected and appointed government officials know evacuation routes and how to check for fake ID’s of young revelers.

But they do not have any plan to recycle the 25,000 plastic beer cups, thousands of cans, aluminum food trays, bottles, plastic plates and “to-go” containers. No recycle bins will be provided. None. Many businesses will make a fortune off the AA5 events over the summer. The businesses get the money; the community gets the garbage.

Patchogue Village claims to recycle. The fact is that it recycles for residences, but not for businesses ~ even though upward of 85% of the recyclable waste is generated by businesses, not residences. How many cans of tomato sauce do you open a week, compared to a restaurant?

I have brought this subject up to government officials, Chamber of Commerce representatives, the AA5 Planning Committee and others for years and to no avail. I did so again last week and the response was apathy or resistance. Occasionally, I hear that businesses are free to fund their own recycling program if they wish. That is like saying we are free to pay more for a sandwich, if we wish.

That response may be acceptable for the AA5 organizers and other government and civic groups; but it is not good enough for the Congregational Church of Patchogue. And, ironically, the theme for the first one event (July 6th) this year is sustainability and recycling. Really?

We request your assistance in notifying businesses and patrons of the July 6th AA5 event to throw their recyclable garbage on the lawn of the church. We are conveniently located right on Main Street to receive your garbage. We will recycle what the village and its businesses refuse to recycle. We also invite you to stop by the lawn of the church at 95 East Main Street and help yourself to some AA5 garbage. Take it home or elsewhere to recycle. Do the world a favor.

This will not be fun for us. It will be dirty and burdensome and is done as a last resort. It would also be unnecessary ~ if the perpetrators of the garbage would do the right thing and recycle the waste they generate. The first book of the Bible ~ Genesis ~ says “God created the heavens and the earth… and it was GOOD!” There is no legitimate excuse for failing to keep it that way.

Do you think this statement made the church popular with local politicians who had said that recycling couldn’t be done? Of course not, in the short run, because it embarrassed them. But it did generate help. James Skidmore, local restaurant manager and AA5 planning committee chair worked with Dwight on solutions. “Waste Warriors,” a new group started by Dwight, brought bags and recycle containers and took waste home. Taking one step made a difference in a whole community. I am guessing that your church could find such an issue to “shock” folks and then convert many community members into helpers.

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