Suddenly I couldn’t be prouder of my Mennonite ancestry. From the top to the bottom of the Rio Grande watershed, Mennonite churches have come together in a new ministry, Watershed Discipleship, which is nothing less than a radical re-placing of Christianity.  If we are  listening. And we should be. Those that despair of cultural change at a glacial pace should sit up and take notice. They are changing faster than the glaciers are now melting.

No denial or delay. No myopia about what our efficient, industrial ways are doing—species extinction, climate destruction, declining natural fertility and “peak everything.” No wrapping themselves in traditional ways of thinking (“No matter what we do to the planet resources, there is always abundance”). And none of the unspoken, and, though I hope not, possibly real reason people don’t act like they take climate change seriously: “Well if this means sacrifice, you go first. I’ll get mine for my family, even if it’s like the classic run on the bank.”

Out west, these churches could be singing the cowboy tune where seldom is heard a discouraging word, because they are armored against the words that have been leveled at me: “You can’t save the world, Jean.” What armors them is that they know that while they can’t save the world, they can save places. And, “We won’t save places we don’t love. We can’t love places we don’t know. We don’t know places we haven’t learned.” And so their Watershed Discipleship community is a learning community and a way forward.

Concrete actions include recently hosting a 17 day intensive on permaculture. And making a Bioregional Covenant to get 75% of their food from within 100 miles by 2025. The Mennonites have always been known as Christians concerned about peace and justice and known as practitioners of a land-based ethic . “Once again in the history of the church, the Spirit is inviting us to radical discipleship” is how organizer Ched Myers characterizes it.

I’m especially impressed they are applying the concept of restorative justice to their theology, with attention to “all those who have been wounded by human development—plant, animal and human alike.”

Gratefully I say, this is the way to revitalize Christianity.

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