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

Digging In: Heels, Histories, Hearts | February 19-23, 2018

Join us February 19-23, 2018 in Oak View, CA for the Bartimaeus Kinsler Institute, with a focus this year on “Digging In: Heels, Histories, Hearts.” Register for the institute by December 15, 2017 for early bird rates ($360 includes registration, accommodation, materials, and meals Monday night-Friday morning).

This institute offers an opportunity to gather with others from across the country to learn and share about strategies and leadings for living as disciples of Jesus here, now, in our particular watersheds and as a global community. Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries has hosted these institutes since 2007, encouraging Christians to go deeper in their faith through both inward and outward practice, following their motto: “Discipleship at the Intersection of Seminary and Sanctuary, Streets and Soil, Soma and Psyche.” Read More

Reflections on “Blessing the Waters of Life” conference

A beautiful, relatively smoke-free week in early fall greeted Presbyterians and others from across the country as they gathered at Menucha Retreat & Conference Center on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge the last week of September. After an unauthorized firecracker sparked the Eagle Creek fire in early September about 20 miles east of the retreat center, and a fire season with an unusually high number of days filled with smoke hanging over the gorge and Willamette Valley, I didn’t take the view for granted. The multifaceted issues relating to the fires brought home the need for the Presbyterians for Earth Care conference being held there, with the focus, “Blessing the Waters of Life: Justice & Healing for Our Watersheds.” Oregon Public Broadcasting reported on issues such as air quality, evacuation of local communities, the local economy, transportation disruptions, conservation and forest management best practices conversations, disruptions to education, threat of landslides after the fire and rain, difficulties for fish and fisher-people, threats to the drinking water source for Portland, and concern over tribal fishing areas and the health of the fish population tribes rely on as an important food and cultural resource. This one fire is an apt metaphor for the way that humanity is interacting with creation in harmful and avoidable ways, with multiple dimensions of consequences, and it is again feeling pertinent and relevant as so many are under forced evacuation around Los Angeles, CA right now due to the Thomas Fire and other fires in Ventura County. Read More

Watershed Discipleship in Latin America

“We are doing this discipleship; we are disciples of this watershed!”

Beatriz Fernández de Hütt, a representative from Amigos del Rio Torres, and Karla Koll presenting on watershed discipleship, “discipulado de la cuenca,” at the Universidad Bíblica Latinoamericana in San Jose, Costa Rica

A woman named Beatriz Fernández de Hütt exclaimed the above quote during her presentation at a workshop on the Spanish translation of the watershed discipleship book. She leads a group called Amigos del Rio Torres that works to clean up the river running through San Jose, Costa Rica.

She learned about watershed discipleship at a recent workshop at the Universidad Bíblica Latinoamericana (UBL) in Costa Rica, where Josh and Grecia Lopez-Reyes represented Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries (BCM) and presented on watershed discipleship, sharing from Discipulado de la Cuenca about the connections between watershed care, Christian faith, and the social and environmental justice concerns facing humanity and our planet today. This event celebrated the collaboration between UBL and BCM to bring the Spanish translation to print. When I spoke to Grecia and Josh about their trip, they expressed inspiration from the fact that many of the people they met in this workshop were already doing activist and advocacy work in their watersheds and were Christians, but had not necessarily connected their environmental work with their faith. Read More

Decolonizing Thanksgiving

As we head into the Thanksgiving holiday weekend in the United States, it’s great to think about all the things we can be grateful for. It is good to have a time to pause and reflect, to participate in the seasonality of gratitude for the year’s bountiful harvest, and to gather with family and friends. (We’ll ignore the über-consumerism of the day following Thanksgiving…)

Many of us probably know by now, however, that the story many of us learned in school about the first Thanksgiving is rather inaccurate at best, and racist and paternalistic in many ways, with a focus on the Manifest Destiny idea of the divine mandate for Europeans to conquer the “New World” in the name of Christ and country. Read More

Review of Watershed Discipleship book on Anabaptist Witness

Check out this review of Watershed Discipleship: Reinhabiting Bioregional Faith and Practice that appeared in Anabaptist Witness‘s October 2017 issue. The review is by Matt Balcarras, who tells the story of reading the book while spending time with the Huu-ay-aht First Nation on Vancouver Island, BC. Balcarras weaves together his own story of spending time there with the encouragement and challenge he received from reading the watershed discipleship book. He concludes:

Reading Watershed Discipleship, I felt like I had found something that satisfied a need I previously had been unable to articulate. I’ve read Wendell Berry. I’ve felt a hunger to know my place and to have a place that I am committed to. I’ve thought a lot about how being a follower of Jesus means living as part of creation, enjoying abundance and appreciating boundaries. But I had not yet considered that I should “recenter [my] citizen identity in the topography of creation rather than in the political geography of dominant cultural ideation” (15). Myers and company have convinced me that to live a life of justice and peace means I must live a life that is in right relation with the land. And to do that, I must learn the legacy of Indigenous communities (18) like the Huu-ay-aht First Nation that have so much to teach those of us who hope for a future for our children when this watershed moment has passed.

Webinar: Impact of Environmental Injustice on Low-Income and Communities of Color, Nov. 14, 2017

A webinar on Tuesday, November 14, 2017, will explore the topic: “Impact of Environmental Injustice on Low-Income and Communities of Color.” Sponsored by Presbyterian Hunger Program and Self Development of People, this free webinar will explore the systemic environmental justice issues facing communities of color and low income communities in the United States, offering suggestions about how to get involved. Learn about environmental laws, zoning regulations, the disproportionate burden of negative health impacts due to environmental pollution on communities of color, and how faith communities are helping address these issues. Learn more here. Register here. UPDATE: Find the full webinar online here.

Featured speakers include:

Shantha Ready Alonso, Director, Creation Justice Ministries

 

 

Elona Street-Stewart, Delaware Nanticoke, Synod Executive, Synod of Lakes and Prairies

 

 

Grace Ji-Sun Kim, Activist and Author

“Praise is a bodily function”: CAFOs, cows, and reconciliation of creation

What does it look like for creation to praise God? A recent post by Margaret B. Adam on the Creature Kind blog adapts a sermon she gave, which addresses this very question. She notes that “praise is a bodily function,” and that creatures sing their praise to God in their own unique voices, participating in creation’s reconciliation through doing the things they are created to do.

But what about cows raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), also known as factory farms? Can these cows praise God in the ways they’re created to do so? What is our role in enabling other creatures to be able to praise God to their fullest potential?

This is a good example of how to preach about watershed discipleship in ways both biblically grounded and with practical application. Hopefully it inspires you to think about the Christian ethics of animal products in our current economic system, and to consider how you might approach these topics from the pulpit.

Eco-Reformation

In light of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation this week, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the need for an eco-reformation. The Evangelical Lutheran Church is putting some focus on this idea this year, and a book entitled Eco-Reformation: Grace and Hope for a Planet in Peril (eds. Lisa E. Dahill and Jim B. Martin-Schramm) addresses this topic with chapters from a range of ecotheologians. While the Protestant Reformation occurred as a response to the context of Luther’s day, an eco-reformation would respond to the context of our day. The Protestant Reformation expanded our understanding of our faith and who is included in its proclamation; an eco-reformation expands our understanding of salvation history even further, recognizing that God is at work in all creation, weaving together a story of salvation history that includes not only humanity but also the rest of God’s creation.

What might an eco-reformation look like in the context of your church, your watershed? What might it look like in your preaching, liturgy, and education offerings? What might it look like in your understanding of your church’s connection to your community and world? How might we respond to the urgent context in which we live, allowing the Holy Spirit to reignite the fire of reformation? Will the established churches of our time have what it takes to do the work of recognition, repentance, and re-formation or transformation required to meet the needs of this time and place?

Norman Habel offers a chapter in the book Eco-Reformation entitled “Ninety-Five Eco-Theses,” encouraging us toward semper reformanda (always reforming), to learning how to be creatures of this Earth, preaching a gospel that is good news to the poor and disenfranchised, with humility to learn from those who are better caretakers of the planet than most of us in the Western tradition, and learning how to serve alongside the Christ who chose embodiment. As we look back on this milestone in our collective history, may we also look forward toward eco-reformation, learning how to be disciples of Jesus in each of our watersheds.