Toward a Watershed Discipleship Alliance
Above: Artist-theologian Ted Lyddon-Hatten's "ephemeral art" installation, created in the creek behind his house in Des Moines, in response to Ched's Sojourners article on water. Pictured is one of the 8 circles of blue sand that followed the creek down, symbolizing the octagonal baptistries. Check out Ted's amazing artwork here and here.
We envision a “watershed discipleship” collaborative promoting and nurturing three main areas of transformation:
1) Ecological Readings of Scripture. We strongly believe that the Bible is an ally, not an adversary, in this task; indeed, the prophetic traditions indigenous to both testaments may alone be capable of rousing us from our ecocidal slumber. The reflective poems, warning tales, grand sagas and radical histories of scripture summon us to remember our origins and the ways of our ancestors; invite us to imagine and work for a restorative future; and call us to liberate and heal ourselves and our home places. But to “see” this will require systematic re-readings of our sacred texts, and developing a capacity to research, teach and publish new perspectives.
2) “Re-placed” Theology, Spirituality and Practices. Recycling, reducing energy use, and shopping responsibly are important, but much more is needed. We need to nurture in our churches critical theological reflection; populist pedagogic engagement at all levels; personal healing and recovery work; Sabbath Economics (including life-skills training in sustainability such as gardening, canning, and foraging); and political organizing efforts that are grounded in the local watershed while conversant in and accountable to wider issues of social, food and environmental justice. For an exercise in re-placed theological imagination go here; for further reflection on this concept go here.
3) Watershed Ecclesiology. Our churches are well-situated to become centers for learning and loving local places as well as defending and restoring them. But we must ourselves “re-inhabit” these places as church, letting the landscapes around us shape our symbolic life and imagination as well as our material habits. All of our churchly practices, from prayer to liturgy and from Word to deed, must help us deconstruct habits that objectify and exploit, and reconstruct our identity around place.
We think such a working Alliance can focalize and amplify these perspectives, and help build capacity for a Christian discipleship defined by commitment to healing our world by restoring the health of our respective watersheds. If we can “do our work” around these issues, we can not only recover the soul of our tradition, but will also make an enormous contribution to the wider historic struggle to reverse our ecological catastrophe.
Six Possible Objectives
- Provide biblical and theological education that closes the gap between ecological literacy and faith, and that disturbs the dominant consciousness in and outside of faith communities, articulating a call for concrete and urgent repentance and renewal.
- Provide practical training in bioregional literacy, re-inhabitory lifeways and issues of cultural “re-place-ment” and ecological restorative justice.
- Support organizing for the defense and restoration of our watersheds, and advocate and educate for bioregionally-appropriate economic, political and social policies.
- Build bridges between faith communities working for ecological justice and those engaged in other matters of social justice and peacemaking.
- Create and sustain a website and other communications tools to enable networking and collaboration for ideas, projects and strategic initiatives.
- Hold occasional gatherings to promote and nurture watershed discipleship practices and perspectives (we organized a west coast and east coast gathering in 2013).
Let us know what you think: