Since today is Earth Day and since I reflected yesterday on some of the ecological themes in in the NOAH movie, I thought it fitting to share an idea that I have recently been introduced to that might help us what church communities might look like that are attentive to their places and creatures, land and ecology of their places.
Ched Myers, whom some of you may know from his important commentary on the book of Mark, Binding the Strong Man, or on his work on Sabbath Economics, has recently been exploring the idea of Watershed Discipleship.
What is Watershed Discipleship? (via WatershedDiscipleship.org )
“Watershed discipleship” is an intentional triple entendre.
- The ecological endgame that stalks our history puts humanity in a watershed moment that demands serious, sustained engagement from Christians; we must choose between denial and discipleship. Both our love for the Creator and the interlocking crises of global warming, peak “everything,” and widening ecological degradation should compel us to make environmental justice and sustainability integral to everything we do as disciples—and as citizen inhabitants of specific places. This requires us to embrace deep paradigm shifts and broad practical changes of habit in our homes, churches, and denominations. It is time to embrace the vocation envisioned by the Apostle Paul: the “children of God” must take a stand of passionate solidarity with a Creation that is enslaved to our dysfunctional and toxic civilizational lifeways, and commit ourselves to the liberation to the earth and all its inhabitants (Rom 8:20f).
- Churchly theologies of “Creation Care” have gained remarkable traction among a wide and ecumenical spectrum of North American churches over the last two decades–yet they are still often too abstract and/or unfocused. We cannot stand against the prevailing industrial system of robbery (of the poor and of the earth) if we have no place to stand. Wendell Berry rightly points out that “global thinking” is often merely a euphemism for abstract anxieties or passions that are useless for engaged efforts to save actual landscapes. “The question that must be addressed,” he contends, “is not how to care for the planet, but how to care for each of the planet’s millions of human and natural neighborhoods, each of its millions of small pieces and parcels of land, each one of which is in some precious way different from all the others.” We are thus persuaded that the best way to orient the church’s work and witness is through bioregionally-grounded planning and action which focuses on the actual watersheds (defined here) we inhabit. Because this orientation is still foreign to our Christian communities, our task is to nurture watershed consciousness and engagement in our faith traditions.
- To be faithful disciples in a watershed at this watershed historical moment, as Todd Wynward reminds us, we need to become disciples of our watersheds, which have everything to teach us about interrelatedness and resiliency. This requires literacy; to paraphrase Baba Dioum, a Senegalese environmentalist:• We won’t save places we don’t love.
• And we don’t know places we haven’t learned.This is both a warning and a promise that we believe sums up our vocation as church in the present crisis.• We can’t love places we don’t know.
We think a good vehicle for the tasks of education, advocacy and organizing required to learn, love and save real places could be a “watershed discipleship alliance.”
This idea of Watershed Discipleship seems to be moving in a similar direction to Slow Church, and provides some helpful, specific language for imagining churches as becoming rooted in specific places and attentive to the life of creation in those places.
What are some ways that we can begin we “nurture watershed consciousness and engagement” in our own churches and neighborhoods?