Monthly Archives: November 2015

Teaser: Watershed Discipleship book chapter


The upcoming book is an exciting collaboration between Christian eco-theologian Ched Myers and a bunch of younger scholar-activists. Fun! Not only because of the writing crew, but also because there are word plays galore (beginning with the concept of watershed discipleship itself).

Summarizing from this website, watershed discipleship is a triple entendre connoting:

  1. the current “watershed moment” in our historical ecological crisis,
  2. the need to bring abstract environmental consciousness to our local level of the watersheds we inhabit, and
  3. the acknowledgement that to be faithful disciples in our watersheds means apprenticing ourselves to our watersheds.

My chapter is an intergenerational conversation with Na’Taki Osborne Jelks. We’re both women of African descent who lead organizations that address inequality and violence. In broad strokes, Na’Taki works locally and I work globally.  Yet a watershed analysis seeps through the cracks and breaks down these binaries. In the chapter you can read how what happened locally in Atlanta, where my Spelman sister Na’Taki successfully mobilized residents of neighboring watersheds to unite to challenge environmental racism and change city policy relates to how communities mobilize worldwide.  Christian Peacemaker Teams’ work is all about connecting people with the reality that what happens in one specific watershed impacts other specific watersheds, and as peacemakers we must “do unto those downstream as we would have those upstream do to us.”

NaTaki and Sarah.jpg
At the Hampton Beecher Nature Preserve located along North Utoy Creek in southwest Atlanta (Ujima Day 2014)

There have been historic social movement splits and societal dynamics that permit inequitable decisions about sanitation and land use infrastructure on local levels. In the chapter I offer thoughts about how these dynamics play out on a global scale. What might it mean to be in solidarity with struggles in other watersheds to build the ecological beloved community?

Martin Luther King popularized the vision and nomenclature of the Beloved Community. In terms of connecting it and the pressing need to address both racism and ecocide, I’m thrilled that the 2016 King Holiday Observance will include a panel called “Building the Beloved Community with Environmental Justice.” It will feature beautiful people with their own bold visions for deep equality and life-sustaining societies.  These intersectional discussions are of critical importance, and they tend to be energizing because they remind us that anyone can enter “the struggle” from any angle, and just like elements in a balanced ecosystem, can find a way and a place to express their unique gifts in the world while also not trampling over other entities’ blossoming.

My chapter’s working title is “An Ecological Beloved Community: An Interview with Na’Taki Osborne-Jelks of the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance.” I’ve written a final draft, but technically everything can still change, so check out the book when it’s published in Spring 2016 to see if it’s still the same. 😉

P.S. We did a webinar with Ched Myers of Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries on World Water Day 2015. Check it out for free and sign-up to participate in upcoming awesomeness in the Ventura River watershed (southern California)

P.P.S. Thanks to colleagues in Chile, we even coin a new term in the chapter! The book will be published by Wipf & Stock.