Big Elkin Creek: Watershed Discipleship in Action

One way to practice watershed discipleship is to work on waterway restoration projects, such as the project in this video, depicting a restoration project along Big Elkin Creek in North Carolina. Rev. Stuart Taylor, retired minister of Elkin Presbyterian Church, has been integrally involved in this project. He has helped communicate and mediate between members of the community, particularly those with land bordering the creek, and he has participated in fundraisers and volunteer projects to restore this creek. This work takes many different kinds of partners, from government agencies and engineers to local business owners, from community organizers to those with knowledge of plants. Individuals from the town formed Watershed NOW to work together toward stewarding the gift of water in their region. Rev. Taylor and his congregation have been participants in this work as people of faith and as community members with a range of skills, as well as showing up when there was a need.

We hope the story of Big Elkin Creek inspires you in implementing watershed discipleship in its myriad forms in your community!

Unsettling the Word

Those in the watershed discipleship community will be interested in a recent book called Unsettling the Word: Biblical Experiments in Decolonization (Mennonite Church Canada, 2018), edited by Steve Heinrichs and illustrated by Jonathan Dyck. With 69 short entries by an excellent list of contributors, this book helps us grapple with ways the Christian tradition has been co-opted by empire, and uncover the stories and themes that help us connect with land, creation, and other people groups. The book is beautifully laid out, with artwork appearing throughout the book (see some examples here). A number of people connected to the watershed discipleship community contributed to the book, including Ched Myers, Katerina Friesen, Randy Woodley, Joshua Grace, Bob Haverluck, Rose Marie Berger, Wes Howard-Brook, and Robert Two Bulls. You may also recognize the names of several of the other contributors from biblical studies and various areas of theology, including Kwok Pui-lan, Joerg Rieger, Norman Habel, Walter Brueggemann, Miguel A. De La Torre, and Ellen F. Davis.

The reflections contained in this book are short — 3-5 pages each — and seek to reinterpret, wrestle with, or reimagine biblical texts, particularly pointing the reader toward Indigenous themes in the text, immigrants, and Read more

Eco-Stewards | Richmond, VA | June 29, 2019

The Eco-Stewards Program, an organization that uses a week-long, place-based learning program to create community among young adult leaders (ages 20-30) who care about the importance of the intersection between their faith and environmental stewardship, will be in Richmond, VA on June 29, 2019. This year’s experience will be a little bit different: Eco-Stewards is inviting alumni, those interested in networking with Eco-Stewards, and those interested in participating as an Eco-Steward in the future to join together for an afternoon along the James River.

You may recall the reflection Vicki Machado wrote about the Eco-Stewards Program‘s last visit to Richmond. If that sparked your interest and you’re able to get to Virginia for a gathering of prayer, reflection, storytelling, and connection, learn more here or RSVP here.

Watershed Snapshot | The Jordan River Watershed, Part 2

Above photo: Jordan River today, Christopher-Sprake / iStock / Getty

My name is Jonathan. I am a Mennonite Christian Palestinian US American. My dual identities as a Palestinian, and as a white US American offer me insight to Christianity both as an indigenous wisdom tradition, and as a religion serving as a tool of global imperialism. I write each entry of this two-part blog post from the first person, as a Palestinian Christian, and as a Western Christian respectively. See part 1 of my Jordan River Watershed snapshot here.

Last year, over 2.4 million Christians visited the “Holy Land.” To put that into perspective, 60% of the tourists to Israel were Christian, compared to only 20% Jewish. Christian tourists spent billions of dollars to walk where Jesus walked, visit sites from the Bible, and see the remains of the world Jesus inhabited.    

Group baptism at Yardenit, from the Yardenit Facebook page
Group baptism at Yardenit, from the Yardenit Facebook page.

A favorite spot for these tourists is the Yardenit Baptismal Site, the most visited spot on the Jordan River. This site is not the site traditionally believed to be that of Jesus’ Baptism—that’s Al-Maghtas on the Jordanian side, or where Elijah ascended into heaven—that’s Qasr el Yahud, in the West Bank Palestinian territories. The Yardenit Baptismal Site has no biblical significance at all.

So why does virtually every “Holy Land” tour visit it? Because it is in Israel. It is a fictionalized baptismal spot created by the Israeli minister of tourism in the 1980s for Christian tourists to be “baptized in the Jordan.” Its purpose is to give Christian tourists the experience without having to interact with Jordanian or Palestinian Arabs. Read more

Watershed Snapshot | The Jordan River Watershed, Part 1

Above photo: Jonathan Brenneman and Sarah Thompson with their grandmothers on their wedding day in 2018. © Peter Ringenberg, 2018

by Jonathan Brenneman
Guest Contributor

My name is Jonathan. I am a Mennonite Christian Palestinian US American. My dual identities as a Palestinian and as a white US American offer me insight to Christianity both as an indigenous wisdom tradition, and as a religion serving as a tool of global imperialism. I write each entry of this two-part blog post from the first person, as a Palestinian Christian and as a Western Christian.

The Jordan River plays a huge part in Christian mythology: the river crossed by the Israelites, the river Elijah and Elisha performed miracles in, the river in which John performed baptisms, the river whose watershed hosts all of Jesus’s ministry.

The Jordan is one of the most significant natural or ecological characters in the Bible, so it’s natural that those who practice watershed discipleship connect deeply to the mythology of the Jordan River, diving into its metaphors and finding the confluence between our own watersheds and that of Jesus. But the river isn’t merely mythical. It did not dry up after the canon was chosen. It is a real river! And it is still flowing…barely. Read more

Podcasts to check out

In addition to the Bartimaeus Cooperative Minitries podcast or “Bartcast,” we wanted to let you know about some podcasts related to watershed discipleship topics and featuring some people in the watershed discipleship network recently.

Shifting Climates logo: a black circle with two overlapping white clouds, one of which is a speech bubbleThere’s a new podcast called “Shifting Climates,” which has featured some fabulous people in its so-far 6 episodes: Randy Woodley (who will be a speaker at the upcoming Bartimaeus Kinsler Institute in February 2019; he’s also featured on the December 31, 2018 Bartcast), and a number of other theologians, climatologists, farmers, and activists. This podcast is created by Michaela Mast, Harrison Horst, and Sarah Longnecker. Here’s a little bit about the story of how they came to create this podcast. Read more

When the Well Dries Up and Jesus Isn’t Born…

by O’neil Van Horn
Guest Contributor

It’s been three years since I moved from California, my beautiful, beloved home state, to New Jersey. I know… “Why?” (No, I did not lose a bet—a question I’ve been asked on more than one occasion.) This seemingly irrational decision has what might be considered an even more irrational reason behind it: to pursue a master’s and doctorate in philosophical and theological studies. (Please pray for me.)

After the whole “why?” ordeal has been resolved, folks then typically ask me how I am enjoying New Jersey. Sometimes this question is sincere, others sarcastic. (I’ll just assume then that you’d like to know, too.) I almost inevitably respond with some mixture of seriousness and whimsy: “I quite like New Jersey. The seasons are interesting, and there’s water.” I usually get at least a chuckle, sometimes more when my timing is on point.


Watching my beloved California become regularly engulfed in flames, larger and deadlier each year, I am thinking more about water than ever before. Read more

Indigenous Justice & Christian Faith: Land, Law, Language | February 18–22, 2019

[Artwork: Wowasake kin slolyapo wowahwala he e: Know the Power of Peace, Diptych icon of Black Elk by Robert Two Bulls, artist-in-residence at this year’s Bartimaeus Kinsler Institute.]

This year’s Bartimaeus Kinsler Institute will consider the topic, “Indigenous Justice & Christian Faith: Land, Law, Language.” Held February 18–22, 2019 at Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries (BCM) in Oak View, CA (unceded Chumash Territory, Ventura River Watershed). Regular registration is open through January 27, and late registration will be available through February 3 (with a 10% extra fee). Read more

Liberating Our Waters

by Lydia Wylie-Kellermann
Guest Contributor

One hot afternoon, my kids and I headed for Belle Isle, dressed in swim suits and looking for relief in the waters of the Detroit River. Cedar, who is now 2, immediately lay down at water’s edge, tummy in the water, and kept saying, “Thank you, water.” He said it over and over again with joy beaming from him. Where does he get it? Yes, indeed, he is right: thank you water.

After that, the kids both started digging a hole that the waves would fill. Isaac would lean his ear close to the water and say, “Water, what do you need? Oh, you want us to dig you a hole with a path for you to have as a home. Ok.” And he would start digging. Water became the third playmate. It had ideas and needs and there was real intimacy. I sat back and just listened. I would hear things like, “Ok, water, we will help you,” or, “The water says it loves it,” or, “I love you, water.” Read more