watershed

AUDIO: Watershed Discipleship Roundtable Discussion

 "Each of us lives in a watershed, no matter how ignorant we may be about it," Ched Myers writes in "A Watershed Moment" in the May 2014 issue of Sojourners. Myers calls people of faith to recognize their inherent connections to their watershed and, in turn, become a disciple in and of that watershed.

In November 2013, a group of Christian pastors, activists, and environmentalists met at the Watershed Discipleship Roundtable in Baltimore, Md., to discuss ecological stewardship and bioregionalism. Listen to this audio from the gathering to hear Myers, along with Sara Stratton, Chris Grataski, and Sasha Adkins, describe their relationships with their watersheds.
 

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Our Lady of the Watershed

OUR LADY QUEEN of Peace church sits atop a low bluff overlooking the Army Navy golf course. This vibrant Arlington, Va. Catholic community has a history of staring hopelessness in the eye and declaring, “Not on our standing ground!”

Queen of Peace was founded by African Americans in the midst of virulent segregation. In the 1940s, Arlington’s black Catholics had to travel two hours by buses to attend a Mass where they were welcome. There was a closer church, but black Catholics were relegated to the back pew and prevented from receiving communion before whites. In 1945, 16 families pooled their money, hired a black real estate agent, and purchased small parcels of adjoining property under various names so as to not arouse suspicion. In an era when redlining and “neighborhood covenants” protected white enclaves and economic power, this was a courageous act. A little less than two acres—their standing ground—was purchased for $14,000. The bishop blessed Queen of Peace, Arlington’s first black Catholic congregation, on Pentecost Sunday 1947.

Now, nearly 70 years later, this multicultural community is asking a new question: With global temperatures rising and changes visible everywhere in nature, how do we face the truth of climate change?

During a speaker series in March focused on “the integrity of creation,” I encouraged them to overlap the ecclesial concept of “parish” with the ecological one of “watershed.” For life to persist, there must be living water. Scientists tell us that each watershed, no matter how small, is responsive to climate change. Since human activity has destabilized the climate, changing human activity is important in undoing the harm. And since the earth’s biosphere is made up of interlinked watershed communities, perhaps restoring our particular watershed is analogous to healing the earth at its “cellular” level, which would be a positive contribution.

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A Watershed Moment

OUR HISTORY IS increasingly hostage to a deep and broad ecological crisis. Stalking us for centuries, it is now upon us in the interlocking catastrophes of climate destruction, habitat degradation, species extinction, and resource exhaustion. Some call it “peak everything.”

“All we have to do to destroy the planet’s climate and biota and leave a ruined world to our children and grandchildren,” concluded environmental policy analyst James Gustave Speth in The Bridge at the Edge of the World, “is to keep doing exactly what we are doing today ... to release greenhouse gases ... impoverish ecosystems and release toxic chemicals at current rates, and the world in the latter part of this century won’t be fit to live in.”

Our Christian faith and practice now unfold either in light of or in spite of this crisis. Our choice is between discipleship and denial.

Two trends among thoughtful Catholics, evangelicals, and other Protestants in North America over the last quarter century are helping awaken us to “response-ability” in the face of these inconvenient truths. One is the spread of contextual theology, which demands both analysis and engagement with social realities around us. The other is how “creation care” has gained broad traction among churches.

But these trends need to be integrated. Contextual approaches have tended to address social, economic, and political issues apart from ecological ones. And environmental theologies are not contextual enough: often too abstract (debating “new cosmologies”), focused on remote symptoms (tropical rain forests or polar ice caps), or merely cosmetic (“greening” congregations through light bulb changes while avoiding controversies such as the Keystone XL pipeline).

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VIDEO: What is a Watershed?

All Americans live in an area serviced by one watershed or another. A watershed, which is an area of land in which all precipitation and water gathers, is a complex, interconnected system upon which humans depend for life. However, destructive human activities and pollutants are threatening our watersheds, which will have broad implications for the future of humanity.

Ched Myers' article "A Watershed Moment" (Sojourners, May 2014) challenges readers to engage in "watershed discipleship," a form of creation care that extends beyond simply exchanging one's light bulbs to engaging in the care of one's local watershed. The following video explains what a watershed is and how it connects to our daily lives.

 

Use this handy tool to find out which watershed you live in, and then do your part to care for it.

 

 

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