St. Margaret's Church, situated on the eastern extent of Shinall and Crystal Mountains, lies on a natural divide. Rain north of the church flows to the Arkansas River by way of the Maumelle and Little Maumelle Rivers, whereas rain on the opposite side flows into the headwaters of Rock Creek and on south then east to the Arkansas River by way of Fourche Creek. A ridge of mountains like this between two water ways is called a watershed. By analogy a "watershed moment" is a crucial dividing line or turning point when an outcome could go either way. We live in such a time.
The Watershed Moment
"Life, a miracle in the universe, appeared around four billion years ago, and we humans only two hundred thousand years ago. Yet we have succeeded in disrupting the balance that is so essential to life. In fifty years, in a single lifetime, the Earth has been more radically changed than by all previous generations of humanity." (Home) The decisions we make in the remainder of this century, especially the next few decades, will determine the survival of civilization, possibly even our species and certainly others. I refer not only to green-house gas emissions with resulting global warming and climate change, but to other forms of pollution of air and water, to never-ending war and violence in our streets and in our homes, to discrimination, oppression, exploitation, and inequality. This watershed moment calls for nothing short of radical discipleship, not denial.
Taking a Stand from My Watershed
The word "watershed" also has another meaning. It is the area of land that drains all rainfall and streams to a common outlet. I mentioned two of these above, one north and one south of St. Margaret's. The USGS has created a hierarchical system of watersheds, or hydrologic units, each assigned a unique code (HUC). The watershed containing Rock Creek and Fourche Creek is designated HUC 1111020702. It is one of six watersheds that make up the Lower Arkansas-Maumelle sub-basin (HUC 11110207). Another is the north slope of Shinall Mountain, which contains the Maumelle and Little Maumelle Rivers (HUC 1111020701). Why is this important?
Water is essential for life. All living plants and animals are inextricably linked to the natural flow of water within a bioregion (life territory), and although we try to insulate ourselves through a grid of waterlines to every location where we use water, we cannot escape these intricate connections between life and the flow of water. It has been, in fact, our attempt to shield our lives and our actions from our profound interconnectedness with the Earth that has led to the wanton destruction we see (or too often refuse to see) around us. In this way, the profound global issues facing us remain abstract and diffuse.
How can we care for the planet without caring for its millions of natural neighborhoods, each one different and distinctly precious from the others? Watershed Discipleship is based on persuasion "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 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. "
Becoming a Disciple of My Watershed
My watershed has much to teach me about interrelatedness and resiliency, but I am surprised at how little I know about it. Over the coming weeks I intend to rectify that.