Trailblazer: Salal + Cedar, a watershed discipleship community
While the just transition to a clean energy economy requires new technology and new ways of understanding our planet, it also calls on us to embrace new ways of knowing one another; to living in right relations with each other and with the earth. Salal + Cedar is a ministry located in Coast Salish territory which is supporting Christians on this path. Salal + Cedar is part of a growing movement across North America called Watershed Discipleship. This movement seeks to reconnect people to the creation-values at the core of Christian tradition and explores ways for communities to reconnect with the land and water, and all living things of a particular place. For Salal + Cedar this means seeking transformative encounters with the species and geography of the Salish Sea basin and Fraser River watershed. A watershed is an area of land where precipitation and surface water flow to a single body of water. Because we are all part of a watershed, no matter where we live, we can all have these encounters in our own watersheds.
One way the Salal + Cedar community reconnects with the land, waters and people of the Fraser river watershed is through outdoor worship. Rain or shine, the community meets year-round twice a month to commune with one another and the outdoors. In addition, members also meet for walking meditation and prayer in nature, support grassroots environmental movements, and participate in community service projects such as creek restoration. Watershed discipleship seeks to bridge spirituality and understanding of place, so getting outdoors and going in to the watershed is a core element of this movement. As a community, Salal + Cedar also explores wilderness, sustainability, and justice themes in Christian scriptures and Anglican social teaching through study and worship.
While the term watershed is mostly commonly used to describe the natural boundaries of creation, it can also be used to describe a critical moment in time when we are compelled to act. We are at a watershed moment right now as the planet faces the impacts of climate change, and in particular recent decisions involving fossil fuel projects and Indigenous rights in Canada. Salal + Cedar is deeply concerned by climate change and since 2016 its members have responded to the Trans Mountain pipeline expansion project, formerly owned by Kinder Morgan, which crosses through Coast Salish territory by participating in direct actions on and around Burnaby mountain, including civil disobedience, gathering for prayer at the pipeline’s facilities, and standing in solidarity with Indigenous land defenders and other allies.
These acts of allyship and bearing witness are significant for the community. The Rev. Laurel Dyskstra, Salal + Cedar’s priest, told the Anglican Journal earlier this year, “We’re not the ministry of responding to Kinder Morgan, but we are very focused on discipleship in our watershed, so responding to what’s going on in our bioregion is really critical.” In her ministry, Dykstra draws from her biology background and experiences in environmental justice movements to connect the impacts of current issues on the health of the watershed. She nurtures members to learn more about their own roots and role within the watershed.
Salal + Cedar’s education and ministry also extends to youth and young adults. Every year, they coordinate a two-week environmental leadership program called, Sacred Earth Camp, for Indigenous, Settler and Migrant/People of Colour youth and young adults. The camp is an opportunity for youth and young adults to get to know their bioregion, learn the climate justice issues in Coast Salish territories, and grow the practical skills and spiritual practices for effective change.