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

Small Gestures

On Sunday morning, as part of our celebration of the MLK Day weekend, we commemorated the 50th anniversary of the destruction of the site of the Asistencia Santa Gertrudis a few miles from our home, where a small Chumash village survived between 1830 and 1865, giving the name “Casitas” to the area. After a hurried archaeological excavation of the site, the state ran a freeway over it in January 1968, something that could never happen today because of laws around disposition of native artifacts. So our little Farm Church circle said some prayers, told the story, and planted some new plants, as the memorial site was burned over in the fire. A small gesture of mindfulness in our watershed.
–Ched Myers

Re-posted from Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries (photo by Chris Wight)

For more detail on our ‘re-membering’ of the Asistencia Santa Gertrudis, see Ched’s blog post from January 10th

Schade’s “Preaching the Body of God”

With all of 2018 ahead of us, it is refreshing to reconnect with more holistic understandings of how to understand our place in the world. Leah D. Schade does just this in her article in The Other Journal, “Preaching the Body of God.” She draws from the work of Sallie McFague to explore environmental justice from an ecofeminist theologian’s perspective, and invites preachers to not shy away from this work in their public witness. As she notes:

Engaging McFague will challenge preachers to question the underlying foundations of our language, especially within the overarching paradigm of patriarchy.

Schade offers helpful tools for thinking through how to preach on environmental topics in light of other justice issues, and in a way that people will understand and connect with. This article is a great read, reinforcing the aid that multiple lenses can bring to our work for environmental issues. You can also check out Schade’s other writing about preaching with eco-themes at her Patheos blog, EcoPreacher.

Photo © Tim Nafziger

Salal + Cedar Prayer and Action Against Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion Project

“A priest, a rabbi, a Hindu and a Unitarian walk onto a pipeline route…”

Photos © Murray Bush

It may sound like the beginning of a joke, but this set-up describes a weekly blockade of the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion Project near Vancouver, British Columbia, Coast Salish Territory. Salal + Cedar, a watershed discipleship community in the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster (Anglican Church of Canada), helped lead a blockade of the Kinder Morgan access road each Thursday in December, organizing an opportunity for an interfaith group to come together around the common goal of stopping construction of the expanded pipeline, and acknowledging a shared connection to the water, land, and creatures of their watershed and world.

Photos © Murray Bush

The Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain Expansion Project would “parallel the 1,150-km route of the existing Trans Mountain Pipeline, which was built in 1953 and is the only West Coast link for Western Canadian oil,” increasing the capacity from 300,000 barrels of oil per day to 890,000 (Kinder Morgan website). However, as Rev. Laurel Dykstra of Salal + Cedar puts it, “The proposed expansion project differs significantly in route [from the existing pipeline]. It crosses a whole ton of waterways and un-ceded Indigenous territory, where people have not been fully consulted, or have explicitly denied their consent.” The level of public outcry against this project has been significant, with letter-writing campaigns and well-attended protests and marches, but approval for the project has been pushed through anyway. As construction proceeds, it is time to move forward into a different kind of action. Of this moment, Dykstra says:

“To be at the outset of that different kind of action, to see where different voices will put their bodies, is an interesting and exciting time.”

Read More

Advent, Plastic, and Spiritual Disciplines

My kids anticipate Christmas like no other season. They spend the month or two ahead of time thinking about and discussing what they want for Christmas, making lists, and poring over the Lego catalogue that appears in the mailbox. They understand the waiting and anticipation part of this season, but perhaps not for the most spiritual of reasons!

This has me wondering about the best ways to engage in this season of Advent, and the season of gathering and of giving that accompanies the way that we United States Christians currently go about celebrating the birth of Jesus. Is there a space between jumping into the frenzy of the holidays full throttle, and being a humbug or a Grinch (prior to their transformations)? Read More

Eco-contemplation and Action: Bahnson on the Ecology of Prayer

The latest issue of Orion Magazine, a special 35th anniversary edition, contains several articles that may be of interest to those practicing watershed discipleship, such as “Women and Standing Rock: where does the body end and sacred nature begin?” by Layli Long Soldier (this page contains a number of articles, poems, and photos on a similar theme), and “One Good Turn” by Kathleen Dean Moore, the story of five activists getting in the way of the Keystone XL Pipeline. There’s also a great piece called “The Soldier and the Soil” about an Iraq war veteran who is dealing with his post-traumatic stress through organic farming. This issue of Orion alone could keep you in excellent reading material for the entire holiday season!

Wake Forest School of Divinity professor Fred Bahnson

I point our readers particularly to “The Ecology of Prayer” by Fred Bahnson. It’s a beautifully written essay that moves through the wonder of a tide pool to the startling emptiness of a faith-based climate action rally, he draws us into the poignancy of the emotional and spiritual states many of us find ourselves in when we contemplate creation, and our impact on it. Using the metaphor of moving on to Easter Sunday too quickly without fully experiencing the deep and awful power of Good Friday, Bahnson wrestles with how to best deal with the startlingly intense human reactions to the natural world in all its beauty and loss. How do we grieve well? Read More

Watershed discipleship and the Thomas Fire

As the Thomas Fire and other fires in and around Ventura County, CA continue to threaten homes and wildlife, Tim Nafziger wrote an article for The Mennonite, detailing his experience evacuating the area for several days, “Relationships made tangible in Thomas Fire.” He writes about the switch in perspective required when one is more used to being part of the group that is helping, and describes help received from strangers and friends alike:

In our work over the years with Christian Peacemaker Teams, we have worked with people who have been displaced from their homes, those trying to return home and those resisting pressure to displace in conflict areas. This was our first time experiencing the uncertainty and anxiety ourselves. Signing in with the Red Cross brought that home.

As the impacts of climate change move closer and closer to home for those of us living in the United States, this experience may become common. Learning the lesson of interdependence—breaking down the dichotomy of helper/helped—can be painful and humbling for those of us who are used to being part of a group with power, and it can also be beautiful and grace-filled.

Read the full article

Learn more about the conditions that caused these fires

Read about the environmental justice issue of farmworkers required to work without smoke masks