Loving our Way through the Darkest of Days

From our comrades at The Wilderness Way in Portland, OR:

“When we hear, there is something being woven. And what is happening is, I am making a real effort to hear not just your words but what is coming from your other chakras, and you are demonstrably showing that you are seeking to hear what I am saying. And we are in a fluid, almost musical, state in what we are doing right now.  That hearing is love.”  

— Gerald Jud, Love is an Intention

December 9: Week Two’s Skill of Loving is HEARING.

HEARING: I hear what you are truly saying, not what I wish you were saying. I also speak my own truth with kindness and respect.


This week we invite you to consciously practice HEARING (and speaking truth) as a way of loving our way through the darkest of days. Share stories, insights and discoveries in this group. Continue reading “Loving our Way through the Darkest of Days”

Loving our Way through the Darkest of Days

WWCAdvent Week 1 – December 2 – 8

“Each of us is capable of growing our powers and skills in giving and receiving love. Despite this truth many die of thirst in a freshwater lake. All about us are people who can give us what we need; we must only learn to ask and then pay up by receiving. When we lay bare our needs and open ourselves to receive love we move from independence to interdependence, the basis of true community.”
— Gerald and Elisabeth Jud, Training in the Art of Loving

December 2:
Week One’s Skill of Loving is SEEING.

SEEING: I see you in your uniqueness, not how I want or assume you to be, and I allow myself to be seen. Continue reading “Loving our Way through the Darkest of Days”

The Season of Advent: Loving Our Way Through these Darkest of Days

WWCFrom our comrades at The Wilderness Way in Portland, OR:

NOTE: We will post a follow-up to this intro piece at 2pmEST today!!

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

As the darkest days of the year approach, coinciding with the season of Advent in the Christian liturgical year, we at The Wilderness Way invite you into a collective spiritual practice of LOVING. Continue reading “The Season of Advent: Loving Our Way Through these Darkest of Days”

Wild Lectionary: What We Do with Our Bodies

227350_659624815131_692849_nEpiphany 4B
1 Corinthians 8:4-6, 8

As to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that “no idol in the world really exists,” and that “there is no God but one.” Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth–as in fact there are many gods and many lords– yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

 “Food will not bring us close to God.” We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.

By David Pritchett

Fireflies and Feathers: Two Kinds of Farming

The summer of 2012 was hot in the Midwest. By the fourth week of temperatures over 90 degrees, and over two months without rain, the grass was brown and our crops in Northeastern Indiana were not faring any better. Continue reading “Wild Lectionary: What We Do with Our Bodies”

Like Alchemy

shelbyBy Shelby Smith (right), in Solveig Nilsen-Goodin’s book What is the Way of the Wilderness?  An Introduction to the Wilderness Way Community (2016):

I don’t believe that one should belong to a certain religion or set of beliefs`. I do believe, from years of trial and error, that for me, a life based on seeking God and It’s will for me is a richer, fuller life, that at times feels downright magical and that without it, life is pretty shitty. I am writing my story in hopes that it can help someone.
Continue reading “Like Alchemy”

New Book- Watershed Discipleship: Reinhabiting Bioregional Faith and Practice

wd book.jpgRadical Discipleship is excited to announce a book hot off the press that is an anthology exploring watershed discipleship. Many of the contributors are regular writers for radicaldiscipleship.net. We hope to have a review coming, but for now check out the book. And let us know if you want to review it!

Edited by Ched Myers
Foreword by Denise M. Nadeau

Contributors: Katerina Friesen, David Pritchett, Jonathan McRay, Lydia Wylie-Kellermann, Erinn Fahey, Sarah Thompson, Matthew Humphrey, Sarah Nolan, Erynn Smith, Reyna Ortega, Sasha Adkins, Vickie Machado, Tevyn East, Jay Beck, and Rose Berger.

This collection introduces and explores “watershed discipleship” as a critical, contextual, and constructive approach to ecological theology and practice, and features emerging voices from a generation that has grown up under the shadow of climate catastrophe. Continue reading “New Book- Watershed Discipleship: Reinhabiting Bioregional Faith and Practice”

The earth we are leaving for our children…The children we are leaving for our earth…

Wilderness WayBy Solveig Nilsen-Goodin

Just a few weeks ago, the Wilderness Way Children’s School (read: Sunday School…Wilderness Way style) opened its doors to invite children whose parents are not regularly participating in the life of the community. Why?

Imagine this…

Imagine a “Sunday School” program happening mostly outside.

Imagine a Sunday School program led by two well-paid (for the few hours a week they prepare for and work with our children), highly skilled and experienced teachers of children, who view their work with children as a calling. Continue reading “The earth we are leaving for our children…The children we are leaving for our earth…”

She is Breathing: Listening for Another World and an End to Empire

iluminadoBy Lydia Wylie-Kellermann. Printed in Geez Magazine.

“Our strategy should be not only to confront empire, but to lay siege to it. To deprive it of oxygen. To shame it. To mock it. With our art, our music, our literature, our stubbornness, our joy, our brilliance, our sheer relentlessness – and our ability to tell our own stories. Stories that are different from the ones we’re being brainwashed to believe… Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

― Arundhati Roy, War Talk

I think of myself as a generally hopeful person. I’ve always believed in Martin Luther King’s long arc bending towards justice. But being in Detroit, the city where I was born and raised, over the last 5 years has crushed me. In a blink of an eye, a place filled with community leadership and creativity was steam rolled by an illegitimate government and the banks. We’ve gone from a city facing transformation by thousands of gardens to facing gentrification by tens of thousands of water shut offs. Black and poor folks are being pushed out fast. The stories are too painful. The work too big. The struggle for survival too real. The powers and principalities seemingly unstoppable. It’s all too much. Continue reading “She is Breathing: Listening for Another World and an End to Empire”

Decolonizing Watersheds: Foodsheds, Faith, and Resistance

ColumbusBy Dave Pritchett

NOTE: This is Part Two of a two-part series from Dave.  Part One was posted yesterday.  

In Part 1 of this blog series, I shared my journey of learning to be a good settler, spurred on by the Woodleys. Convicted of my role as a settler here in Cascadia, I felt led to learn about the Doctrine of Discovery and the possible response of watershed discipleship. As a refresher, the Doctrine of Discovery formed the foundation for European colonization of the Americas, and is still referenced occasionally today in legal disputes over land claims. I found that watershed discipleship offers a theological alternative to the Doctrine of Discovery by encouraging Christians to reclaim their relationship to the watershed they inhabit, not as a mode of conquest, but by reconnection to place and people.

In this post, I want to look at a biblical text that helps ground this complex conversation around the intersecting themes of colonization, land, and faith. We eat three times a day, after all, and food often has subtle symbolism for what kind of society we live in as well as how we relate to land and people. Daniel tells a story that grapples with these themes, merging, in this tale, around a king’s table.

Daniel: the Relationship between Food and Empire
In the first chapter, the author sets the tone for the book, portraying Daniel and his friends as ones who attempt to live faithfully within the Babylonian Empire despite being captive to it. The story introduces these young Israelites as intelligent members of Jerusalem’s elite, taken into service for the king: “young men without physical defect and handsome, versed in every branch of wisdom, endowed with knowledge and insight, and competent to serve in the king’s palace” (Daniel 1:4). This assimilation of members of the elite is an important imperial strategy: putting the social elite at the king’s table essentially puts them under his thumb. The subsequent renaming of Daniel and his friends reveals how the king attempted to reshape these men according to the priorities of Babylon (1:7). Just as later nation-states developed surnames in order to track and tax populations, so the renaming of newly acquired servants is a measure of the degree to which Babylon claimed authority over the lives of political prisoners.

However, like so many indigenous peoples throughout history who find their lands occupied and their people enslaved, the Hebrew captives would not capitulate so easily. Daniel’s refusal of the king’s food constitutes the crux of the story: “But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal rations [emphasis mine] of food and wine” (1:8). Patbag, the word at issue here, is the allotted meal taken from the royal treasury to meet the needs of his courtiers. Most interpreters take this refusal to be a religious one—Jews in antiquity often maintained their ethnic and religious distinction by observing dietary rules. An overlooked area of this issue, however, is that the royal court system depended upon an empire that extracted goods from the margins of the empire to benefit the center. Wresting resources from the conquered periphery to the king’s palace was commonplace:

The procedure of funneling resources from the subject populations to the heartland through seizure and exaction was no less important to the Babylonians as it had been to the Assyrians…. Nebuchadnezzar campaigned almost yearly in the west, in part to ensure order, but also to fill the royal coffers. (David S. Vanderhooft, The Neo-Babylonian Empire and Babylon in the Latter Prophets, p. 62)

The king’s table would certainly be maintained by such imperial campaigns; meat and wine would be sourced as tribute from conquered nations. These particular goods were less perishable, since meat could be transported as livestock, and wine could travel a distance without spoiling. The average urban dweller in Babylon had a diet dependent on grain transported from the surrounding countryside. Babylon’s food footprint, according to one catalogue of grain imports, consisted of an area extending from the Sippa in the north to Sealand in the south, a length of over 190 miles of irrigated land. In contrast, Daniel’s requested meal of vegetables do not travel well, so must be grown nearby. (For more information on these and other aspects of the Babylonian Empire’s relationship with the land, see the chapter “Cities and Urban Landscapes in the Ancient Near East and Egypt with Special Focus on the City of Babylon,” by Pedersen et al., in The Urban Mind: Cultural and Environmental Dynamics, ed. Sinclair et al., 2010.)

The refusal of the king’s table food, therefore, can be read not just as a dietary preference but also as an act of defiance. Daniel’s diet of vegetables and water represents an alternative to the extractive economy of empire in favor of local fare that could not be stolen from distant places. If acceptance of the king’s food symbolized political allegiance, the alternative diet was an implicit rejection of the king. The four friends might have to live in the king’s court, but they would find ways to resist the politics of plunder epitomized by the patbag.

Awareness of Watersheds: First Step in Breaking Down Empire and Building Up Flourishing Spiritual Community
I suggest this correlates to land use and interaction with colonial powers in our own time, and we can use Daniel as an example of how to respond. Like Daniel, we might start by envisioning the end of the imperial food system that incorporates both land and people into a matrix of oppression. Because food connects us to land daily, our food system symbolizes how we will relate to land. The Doctrine of Discovery became a fundamental legal framework that allowed Europeans to take indigenous lands. The question for disciples today is whether we will continue that history by marginalizing indigenous voices and devaluing the colonized landscape on which we all live.

Judy Bluehorse Skelton leads the way in calling indigenous people into “recovery from discovery”; perhaps it is time for settlers similarly to enter into this recovery work. The following are practical ways we can learn to be good settlers:

  1. Support existing indigenously led organizations. These organizations may want you to volunteer, or may just ask for monetary donations. The most important thing is to ask how you can be supportive. Do this without expectation of being praised for generosity. For people near Portland, Native American Youth and Family is a great place to volunteer or donate. I was grateful this year to attend a session at Eloheh School, led by Edith and Randy Woodley, that focused on indigenous spirituality and relationship with the land; similar sessions will be offered in the future, and represent a way both to support their ministry as well as engage in your own work of learning in the journey of decolonization.
  2. Learn the history of the land on which you live. To whom did it belong? What were their patterns of life? Where do they live now?
  3. Practice watershed discipleship. Learn what it means to follow Christ in this moment, with all the ecological devastation that accompanies this time in history. Find others who will also commit to being disciples of your watershed as well—let the land be your rabbi, teaching you to live according to the patterns within it. My faith community, Wilderness Way, practices this with a monthly hike in which we learn more about the native ecology and landscape and notice how being in the forest nourishes our spirituality.
  4. Practice food justice. Food is what connects us to people and landscapes, and therefore has symbolic and practical importance. Who grows and harvests your food? Support food workers campaigning for better wages. Can you find food sources that are local, farms where you can visit to ensure the land is not being poisoned, and workers not exploited? What is the carbon footprint of your food? Does it come from across the country, or from your region? I connect to both food justice and local ecology by volunteering with Portland Fruit Tree Project, a nonprofit that cares for fruit trees and shares the harvest with people who struggle to access healthy food.

The prophetic actions of Daniel and Judy Bluehorse Skelton spill forth hope that the empire of conquest can be resisted and new life-ways animated in our watersheds. Though this is a daunting task, I can think of two good places to start. One such place is our tables, where the daily act of eating meets ecology, and the other is down by the riverside, where our discipleship to Jesus in baptism joins our commitment to the watershed we call home.

Empire Cracking: An Interview with Wilderness Way

wildernessThis interview was taken by Lydia Wylie-Kellermann as part of a writing project for Geez Magazine entitled “She is Breathing: Listening for Another World and an End to Empire.” It was published in the Winter Issue.

Lydia Wylie-Kellermann: Biefly, what is Wilderness Way’s story? How did it come to be? What was it in response to? What was it a calling away from and a calling to something different?

Solveig Nilsen-Goodin: Wilderness Way began with a friend of mine coming over one day in 2006 saying he was feeling led to start an alternative church at the margins of Christianity, and something inside of me immediately responded, YES!  We spent the next six months listening for what “at the margins of Christianity” meant to us, and gathering others to join us, and soon the name, Wilderness Way Community, emerged.  The name signifies the particular place we are planting ourselves.  Biblically, the wilderness is the place outside the walls of empire, the place where prophets are called and fed, the place where manna is given and enoughness is taught, the place where John the Baptist initiated those who were defectors from and dehumanized by empire; the place where Jesus was tested and prepared for his prophetic, spiritual leadership.  Wilderness also signifies the wild spaces that emerge and exist without human control.  Within the context of Western civilization (particularly urban contexts) most of us are profoundly cut off from the “natural” world – a disconnection that is having devastating consequences for the planet, the poor, and our very souls.  The values we seek to bring forward are, in fact, values found deep in the wilderness of both scripture and nature: the values of Sabbath, jubilee and shalom. When manifested, these values look a lot like what Jesus called the Kingdom of God, and that’s the new (old) world that is emerging. Continue reading “Empire Cracking: An Interview with Wilderness Way”