Preaching Watershed Discipleship in Kalamazoo, Michigan

This post first appeared on Churchwork and was titled A great Earth Day sermon. Earth Day sermons are hard. I didn’t preach one this year, even though I was preaching on a Sunday close to Earth Day and care for the earth is close to my heart. It’s just tough to find the words that inspire reflection and action without inducing guilt. But I was absolutely delighted to read the sermon that was preached at St. Martin of Tours Episcopal Church in Kalamazoo, Michigan on April 26th. Michael Stifler, a lay member of the congregation with years of experience in watershed management, was invited by the rector, the Rev. Mary Perrin, to preach that Sunday. His words are a perfect example of faith-based bioregional thinking – the kind of deep-rooted religion that I described in a recent (surprisingly viral!) post. I was honored when he agreed to allow me to share this sermon with you. Before I do, I have to give a shout-out to Ched Myers, whose work inspires both me and Michael. Ched was kind enough to connect us to one another last summer after we discovered him separately. When I read Michael’s words, I was inspired. Without downplaying the seriousness of our ecological situation, he offers faithful and practical ways to think and act for good. Most important, he roots our thinking and acting in the context of the great story of God’s work of redemption and reminds us of the infinite mysteries of the created order. By doing so, he helps us move closer to fulfilling our role in creation. Thank you, Michael Stifler, for the time and care you give to this work. Thank you, Mary Perrin, for recognizing the gifts Michael has to offer for this ministry. And most of all thank you, Lord God, for the inspiration you offer those who seek to conserve your great Creation. Read More

Towards a a collaborative bioregional mission strategy

This post was first published on Churchwork under the title I said what our diocese most needed. Then I realized: nobody knew what I meant.

This Saturday, Episcopalians from greater Grand Rapids, Michigan, gathered with our bishop and staff at St. Mark’s, Grand Rapids for a Bishop’s Town Hall. This is the latest iteration of an annual event begun by our previous bishop. In times past it featured teaching from the bishop in the morning and workshops for vestry education in the afternoon. In those days it was billed as an educational event for new vestry members. Read More

Free Archived Webinar: “The West Atlanta Watershed Alliance: Interview with Na’Taki Osborne Jelks”

Check out BCM’s March 2015 webinar – Ched and Sarah Thompson spoke with Na’Taki Osborne Jelks about WAWA: The West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, and organizing around issues of environmental racism and “watershed discipleship.”

It’s FREE!!

Watershed Discipleship: Transformation Through Picking Berries

 (Originally posted over at http://radicaldiscipleship.net/2014/10/17/watershed-discipleship-transformation-through-picking-berries/ ) Kyle lives with his wife Lynea on the 3rd floor of an old house in Cleveland. They have a couple egg-laying hens in the backyard and tons of red wiggler worms. Kyle spends his days working alongside folks with developmental disabilities on a 2-acre urban farm down the street from his house. In his spare time, he works alongside Lynea in the 2 youth gardens she started in the neighborhood. They are both passionate about growing food, spreading that knowledge, and figuring out ways to get healthy food to folks that don’t have access to it.

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A few years back, I had a dramatic conversion experience. Someone introduced me to the act of picking berries. Since then, I’ve had a bit of an obsession with finding these delectable treats, both wild and cultivated. It’s hard to describe the revelation that takes place when you first begin to pick food off of a plant with your own hand and put it directly into your mouth, but I think Wendell Berry says it well in this short phrase:

Better than any argument is to rise at dawn and pick dew-wet red berries in a cup.

“Better than any argument” captures my attention, because while I don’t mind using intellect, I’m a terrible arguer. I prefer experiential learning or transformational experiences, and picking berries has been one of those for me. If I did have to argue the benefits, I suppose I could say that berries are good for you. They taste good. Picking wild berries for free seems a bit subversive, like cheating the system. It connects one with neighbors (I climbed a mulberry tree this year at a neighbor’s house, gave it a few shakes and watched the ripe mulberries fall off into our blue tarp below. Quite fun!)

It connects one with the earth. And in a day when many of us live in concrete-dominated cities (I live in Cleveland) and are seeking to be disciples in and of our bio-region, ingesting native wild berries (juneberries, mulberries, black raspberries to name a few in my watershed) joins us to the rhythms of our place – the rhythms of the sun, the soil, and the water that have teamed up to nourish the trees, brambles, and bushes that in turn nourish our bodies and spirits. In this we experience the tangible benevolence of the Creator, who looked and saw that it was indeed, very good.

One of my favorite spots to pick mulberries is behind an old, abandoned library. I try to imagine all the forces that have rendered this place useless, another human endeavor turned to rust and decay, forgotten and abandoned. I pick and eat, enjoying the shade of the mulberry trees that have watched all this happen, and continue to produce fruit that is indeed, very good.

Our mulberry-stained hands
Our mulberry-stained hands

The Water that Connects All Life: A Reflection on the Baptism of Jesus, by Jennifer Henry

Jennifer Henry is the Executive Director of Kairos Canada.  This reflection was given at “Keepers of the Water: A Vigil of Lament and Celebration,” on January 14th, 2015 (“The Feast of the Baptism of Jesus”; readings: Genesis 1:1-5 and Mark 1:1-11).

In these last days we have told the story of how Christ came into this world, the divine taking human flesh. How the mystery of his birth was understood by the marginal and eccentric ones—some poor shepherds, some mystical magi. How, vulnerable to a genocidal ruler, he was forced to flee as a young child. And how, in the accelerated time of our lectionary, he grew to assume his ministry, baptized into his vocation of justice and peace, charting a path that would change everything.  Read More

An Open Letter from Typhoon Haiyan Survivors to Pope Francis

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Sean Devlin is a Vancouver-area climate justice activist who I have heard speak at a couple of events. His commitment to storytelling, and his analysis around race, poverty, responsibility and relationships has helped me deepen my own thinking and understanding. Sean is producer and director of this film where Filipin@ survivors of climate disaster speak of their experience and resistance.

Moving Up the Watershed in the Way of Peace: Isaac and Conflict in Genesis 26

This article is by Ted Lewis, from November 2014. It is an edited version of a series of four blog posts on www.restorativetrainer.com. Read the article here.

It this article, Ted Lewis explores naming, taming, overcoming and resolving conflict in the desert, that most brittle of watersheds.

Converting to “watershed discipleship”

Ched speaks about his life and conversion to “watershed discipleship” at Jesus Radicals conference in 2011:

Part 1

Part 2

Claiming the Call of Watershed Discipleship

This reflection by Nathan Holst from Oct 10, 2014 is published on the EcoFaith Recovery website. Nathan reflects on his recent internship at Bartimaeus Cooperative in California with Ched Myers and Elaine Enns. Nathan shares the community context of how he has come to be thinking about Watershed Discipleship and what he is learning.

You can read the article here. 

Editorial Preface to the issue: Watershed Discipleship

This recent editorial by Dave Pritchett was published online at missiodeijournal.com in August, 2014 in which he introduces the issue of Watershed Discipleship and the work of Ched Myers around this issue.

Would you risk being baptized in your local river or pond? This issue of Missio Dei Journal addresses this need for transformation by integrating ecological and theological concerns under the framework of “Watershed Discipleship.” Missio Dei: A Journal of Missional Theology and Praxis 5, no. 2 (August 2014)

Click here to read this free article online.