Saturday, October 18, 2014

Watershed Discipleship

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.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Rel B. Corbin, Guest

Peoples Climate March—my experience. I was #112, the last person to be accepted for the Arkansas buses to NYC. We left LR very early Friday morning, stopped at Oak Ridge, Tennessee for a program on Global Warming . Some of us had signed up too late for a security clearance to enter Oak Ridge so we had to spend that time on a nice beach on the Clinch River miles upstream from the ash dump at Kingston, TN.

We spent the night at the hamlet of Bulls Gap, TN, where we picked up the last to join us. We had folks from all over Arkansas and from Oklahoma, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama. Ages ranged from early teens to around eighty. Families came.

Up early Saturday, to go the length of the Virginia's Shenendoah Valley, very briefly across West Virginia and Maryland and then half the length of Pennsylvania to arrive at Rochelle Park, NJ that night and up early Sunday morning to arrive beside Central Park in NYC to wait for our parade to start at 11:30. Many people were already there when we arrived about 7 AM. We had agreed to stay together, so we scattered. I was with a little core group but I would wander off among the people and out into Central Park occasionally (Central Park is huge with big overgrown areas. There were plenty of porta potties for 200,000 but not near enough for the 400,000+ who participated. I have found I was not the only one to water the bushes in wonderfully over grown areas.)

There were Vegans, Pacifists, Socialists, Communists, Lenin-Marxists, others strongly opposed to all these and then there were others. There were all colors of folks. I talked with a Pine Bluff, Arkansas native NAACPer who brought several teenagers from Milwaukee.

Sometimes New Englanders and New Yorkers would ask where I was from, I assumed because of my Arkansas twang, but I felt they were just curious. Folks were very nice. And interested to talk with someone from Arkansas.

I never felt pushed, physically or otherwise in New York.

There were cops everywhere. My seat mate for the trip, Guerlermina, was from Monterey, Mexico via Chicago and eastern Oklahoma, good Catholic, widowed in 1972 with 5 young children, who recently married a Republican Methodist. Mina got her photo taken twice with pairs of cops holding her arms from either side, all grinning.

This was an exhausting trip. I never heard a speech that moved me. But I felt the whole time (until the Monday night at 10:30 arrival back in Little Rock.) that this mass of people, many of whom probably sacrificed greatly to go, want to save God's Green Earth from the eminent disaster, (referred to as "Progress" by many) we are close to.

I am ready to go again.

By Rel B. Corbin, guest post.
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