Watershed Snapshots

We want to get to know one another’s watersheds and the watershed discipleship work people are doing in their regions. We would love to hear from you! A new series called “watershed snapshots” will appear on this blog in coming months and you are welcome to contribute. Here are some ideas and questions to get you going. Read More

A Sermon, A Poem, A Prayer? To Speak as Water

By Lydia Wylie-Kellermann
Preached at Day House Detroit Catholic Worker, February 18, 2018
Originally posted on the Radical Discipleship blog

Genesis 9:8-15
1Peter 3:18-22
Mark 1:12-15

Who am I?
I am fierce and gentle.
I am life and death.
I am ancient and new.
I am solid and fluid and gas.
I am in you and around you.
I am above you and below you.
I am the snow and the rain,
The creek, the stream,
the river, and the sea. Read More

Challenging a Theology of Waste, or “On Dealing with Our Crap,” part 1

by Sarah Thompson and Cherice Bock

Sarah Thompson contributed an excellent chapter to Watershed Discipleship: Reinhabiting Bioregional Faith & Practice entitled, “An Ecological Beloved Community: An Interview with Na’Taki Osborne Jelks of the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance.” I loved reading their thoughts and conversation focused around the question, “What might it mean to be in solidarity with struggles in other watersheds to build the ecological Beloved Community?” (102). Recognizing that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (Martin Luther King, Jr. in “Letter from Birmingham City Jail”), Osborne Jelks and Thompson discussed the concept of SSDP: “Same Struggle, Different Place,” between the communities with whom they work. Osborne Jelks has been working with the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (WAWA) to advocate for the predominantly African American community living in a region of northwest Atlanta where a sewage overflow system results in raw sewage running through a creek in residents’ backyards. Learning about WAWA’s activism and successes is an inspiring read, and covers some important ground regarding the intersection between racism and environmental degradation.

I also wanted to learn more about Sarah Thompson. She shares a bit of her story in the chapter, and what she shared made me want to learn more about her own work, and the directions she would like to go with watershed discipleship. Until recently, Thompson worked as executive director for Christian Peacemaker Teams, so I was particularly interested in hearing her insights about the connections between nonviolent direct action, international conflict, civil rights, environmental justice, and faith. Read More

Trickle Up: U.S. Housing and the Biblical Call to Redistribution of Wealth

by Sam Greenlee
Guest Contributor

A couple of years ago, when we were trying to find a home to buy, we hoped to purchase a fixer-upper that would require us to take on less debt. There were plenty available, or so it seemed.

Time and time again our offers lost out to investors who had cash in hand and were looking to make a profit by flipping or renting out the homes. We often lost to investors who were actually making offers lower than our own, because their cash offers didn’t carry the risk of the loan falling through in the escrow process.

While we love the home where we eventually ended up, we found that we had to purchase a home that was near the top of what we could possibly afford. It didn’t have much left to be done and so there wasn’t a sure profit left to be squeezed out of it by investors. Read More

Mardi Gras & Watershed Discipleship: an interview with Tevyn East

This Tuesday is Mardi Gras or “Fat Tuesday,” the last day before Lent (the season of fasting and prayer leading up to Easter on the Christian calendar). On Mardi Gras, many people gather for big events called Carnival: eating, dancing, and making merry. Historically, this Christian festival provides a means to purge perishable items before Lent while also allowing space for a rebellious mockery of existing orders. This practice of over-the-top excess right before weeks of self-denial may seem to encourage the unhealthy cycle of binging and purging in Western culture, rather than a more sustainable equilibrium of “enough.” However, with the historical context of Carnival in mind, we can see it as a celebration of community vitality, which often must take the shape of a defiant rebellion against the unhealthy constraints of a repressive church hierarchy. With this lens in mind, how can we approach Mardi Gras as a practice of watershed discipleship? Read More

Anglican Theological Review’s Water Volume

A recent edition of the Anglican Theological Review focused on water, and included an article on watershed discipleship by Ched Myers: “Prophetic Visions of Redemption as Rehydration: A Call to Watershed Discipleship” (see abstract here). The volume also includes a number of sermons, poems, and other theological expositions around the theme of water. Though the full text is not available online, you can order a copy through the ATR website, or email them including your name and full address. Through watershed discipleship, Ched invites Christians to “reimagine baptism as a liturgical sign of terrestrial resistance and renewal.”

 

Photo by Cherice Bock

Water in the Desert, and a Prayer for Migrants

by Katerina Friesen
Watershed Discipleship Editorial Team

In 2016, I walked 75 miles along the U.S.-Mexico border along with over 60 other people on The Migrant Trail, an annual walk to bear witness to the thousands of inhumane deaths that migrant sisters and brothers have suffered as a result of U.S. immigration policies. Over the past 20 years, 7,000 deaths have been documented, and many human remains found in the desert remain unidentified. We walked to remember these known and unknown loved ones, carrying crosses marked with either their names or simply, “desconocido” (unknown), which we called out from our line of walkers to the collective response of:

“¡Presente!”

The temperature hit over 110 degrees one day as our group walked near the border in Arizona. Sweat dripped down my face and back, and we were advised to walk on the white line on the road since the black asphalt was so hot. Even though we had plenty of water in support vans and at rest stops (in contrast with most migrants crossing the desert, who can’t carry very much), my water bottle was low and all I could think of while walking was our next stop for water. We rounded a curve in the road, and suddenly I saw a humanitarian aid truck carrying water that they regularly leave out in the desert, water that saves many migrants’ lives. I only had a brief taste of the heat and exhaustion migrants go through in their perilous journey north, but at that moment I started weeping when I saw the water truck there, offering our group water and encouraging us on our way. Water is life, especially in the desert. Read More

Water and Health in the Bronx: Protecting the Sacred

by Kelly Moltzen
Guest Contributor

Photo © Kelly Moltzen, NYC Watershed Tour

It is hard to not be awed by the scale and tremendous care that goes into supporting the gigantic system bringing water to New York City and the surrounding counties. Flowing from the Catskill/Delaware Watersheds and the Croton Watershed, approximately one billion gallons of water are consumed in New York City every day, serving 8.5 million residents as well as millions of tourists each year. In all, the New York City Water Supply System provides nearly half the population of New York State with high-quality drinking water.

It is humbling to realize just how dependent all these millions of people are on the water supply functioning the way it is supposed to. Water constitutes about 50-70% of our bodies as human beings. Water from the reservoirs, aqueducts, and street-side sampling stations is quality tested by the Department of Environmental Protection’s scientists, with nearly 630,000 analyses performed on the samples in four state-of-the art laboratories (NYC DEP). Read More

If an Ancient Cathedral Had Burned: Farewell to Grandmother Oak

by Ched Myers

Old trees are our parents, and our parents’ parents, perchance.

— Henry David Thoreau, Journal, Oct 1855

On the afternoon of Christmas Eve, three weeks into the Thomas Fire here in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, the losses from California’s largest wildfire on record (scorching more than 280,000 acres) became searingly real, personal, and almost unbearable.

Ventura County, CA after the 2017 fires, photo by Tim Nafziger, used by permission.

The weather was warm and blessedly clear of smoke, the fire now 85% contained and only still burning far in the backcountry. So after the Farmer’s Market, Elaine and I took a ride on our little scooter. We figured we’d recovered enough psychologically from the immediate trauma of the conflagration to be able to take a look around the perimeter of the Ojai Valley. What we saw was sobering: from East End to Matilija to White Ledge Peak (upon which we gaze every day from our home) to Red Mountain, there was little but ashen scars in every direction. Entire mountainsides had been burned down to dirt and stone.

We saved the last leg of our impromptu tour for that part of our watershed most beloved to us: the hills behind Lake Casitas. Here in 2005 we first encountered uncompromised chaparral and undisturbed old growth oak savannahs—exceedingly rare in overdeveloped southern California. Here we hopped fences and hiked off grid, sat under trees, and came to know plant communities. Here we received the deepest confirmation of our decision to move to this place. Read More

Pesticides and Shalom: Advocating for Sustainable School Grounds Management as an Act of Watershed Discipleship

by Jennifer Powell
Guest Contributor

Creating good childhood memories with my children is important to me: team sports, family camping trips, backyard barbeques, lovable pets, and birthday parties. More importantly, I hope to give my children a sense of connection to their community and the land and to bolster their capacity to face the challenges of the world they will inherit from my generation. These challenges can feel hopelessly overwhelming. Our current ecological and social realities make it easy for anyone with awareness to fall into despair. Therefore, I want to give my children a sense of hope against the dire backdrop of capitalist consumption-driven climate change. Real hope springs through engaging with reality as it stands, yet responding as a loving community toward changing the things that we can. Recently, I was presented with an opportunity for the children and families in our watershed to plant the seeds of that kind of hope and help them grow as I became aware of pesticide use on school grounds, and advocacy in my community against that management style. In what follows, I’ll share my story of becoming aware of this problem, connect it to themes in the biblical tradition, articulate some of the cultural problems we currently face in the United States, discuss some of the problems with pesticide use, and end by describing some of what my community is doing to move in a healthier direction.

I. Awareness

Few places in local communities touch more lives than school grounds: the acres of land that provide the earth foundation for our learning centers. Beyond the classroom buildings, these acres house the fields upon which our communities play team sports, exercise, train dogs, fly kites and frisbees, and the playgrounds where our children jump and swing. They are the sites where childhood memories and foundational ethics are formed and the future is shaped. Read More