As we share our beliefs as a faith community in this space, one of the first questions you might have is “what is non-denominational?” exactly and what grounds us as a church? We have not tied ourselves to a denomination for various reasons, but, to simplify, we believe that people are the church, not an institution, and that we do not need to label ourselves as a certain “type” of church to be the church. The early church was a group of people whom, as theologian Peter Rollins defines the church, were open to transformation. A group of people who saw that the religious institutions and traditions of their time were being upended by not only the life of Jesus, but also the ongoing work of God in a broken, imperfect but beautiful world. This is THE CHURCH. To put Watershed simply:
WE ARE A COMMUNITY OPEN TO TRANSFORMATION WHILE KNOWING AND EMBODYING GOD IN THE MIDST OF BROKENNESS.
Feeling safe within a community of faith is rooted in so much more than understanding or agreeing with a set of beliefs. A person can feel safe initially, knowing and agreeing with a church’s belief system. But in the long run, safety is generated as much or more through relationships, transparency, shared experiences, dialogue and a common purpose as a community. Yet, we recognize that for someone new an important part of processing safety in a church involves knowing and trusting its core tenets or beliefs.
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions we receive regarding Watershed’s beliefs, along with a few other ideas worth mentioning when it comes to how Watershed makes sense of itself and the world.
What do you believe about Jesus?
Jesus centers Watershed as a community. In the flesh and blood life and teachings of Jesus, we find a better way to be human. We believe Jesus to be historical, human and divine. In Jesus we see an embodiment of God that is unlike any other. In his humanity we see a version of what God longs for us to become. Fully loving, fully integrated, fully loved by God and empowered to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves.
What do you believe about Christ?
Watershed is considered a Christo-Centric community. Throughout the New Testament, Christ (or The Christ) was spoken of as the mystery, the divine spirit, power or inspiration fueling and empowering the church. For some New Testament writers, Christ was the force of life and compassion, mercy and justice that had always been permeating all living things in the universe from beginning to end, holding all of creation together. Watershed begins with a belief of Christ as the spirit that we invite to sit at the center of our community and lives.
What do you believe about God?
In short, and to quote theologian Marcus Borg, we believe that “God is real, that the Christian life is about entering into a relationship with God as known in Jesus Christ and that relationship can—and will change your life.”
We embrace God as both knowable and unknowable. Throughout the history of humanity, human beings have attempted to articulate experiences with or ideas about God. At times these attempts have been helpful and at times harmful. We believe that God is bigger than our words or experiences and deeper than our emotions. We also believe God is more pervasive and permeating throughout humanity and creation than we realize. So, in one sense, He is beyond our limited ways of knowing in this lifetime. Yet, we believe and trust that we are not left to ourselves, that we are not alone, and that God is knowable and present in the deepest parts of ourselves at any given moment. Paul describes God beautifully in his letter to the early church in the book of Acts (Acts 17:24-28 NIV)
“The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands. And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being…”
What do you believe about the Bible?
Watershed values the scriptures deeply. While Christianity was never meant to be about a book, but instead about a person, Watershed uses the scriptures to inform our pursuit of understanding and knowing God in this lifetime. Part of why we believe God is knowable is because of how people throughout the ages and within the Bible have provided us with ideas and stories about their experiences with God.
The scriptures are relevant to Watershed because they embody humanity’s pursuit of God. They’re also relevant because they capture periods of human development and humanity’s unfolding understanding of reality. For our community, the scriptures serve as a library of inspired, sacred and ancient writings from real people in real places during real time periods. Our experience has been that scripture is best used within dialogue and to deepen community and our lives. We deeply value and rely on the scriptures as the foundational text that informs and fuels spiritual development and conversations about ourselves and about the world around us.
The scriptures are also essential to Watershed because within them we can grapple with the life of Jesus, the influence of Christ, the mystery and grace of God and our own humanity and the way our lives can experience transformation. In this sense the scriptures are drenched in the divine and are a gift to the human experience.
What do you believe about creation?
One of the advantages of living in the present era is having an increased awareness of creation, humanity and the universe as being sophisticated, complex and mysterious. Hence, it makes sense that the writers of Genesis 1 chose poetry as a way of trying to articulate the spiritual motive and means by which all things come into existence. We do not rely on the Bible to make sense of creation scientifically. But we do find the Bible incredibly useful in helping us understand how early periods of human history sensed God compassionately, patiently, generously and creatively empowering humanity to build upon what God created and pronounced as good in the beginning of it all.
What do you believe about salvation, sin and redemption?
We believe that the original gift we are given in this lifetime is goodness. When God created us, he did so and called us good, called us beloved and found us to be pleasing. However, we also believe that, regardless of how well we are cared for throughout our lifetimes, we all experience a degree of woundedness or distortion in ways that are both seen and unseen. Through his life, death and resurrection, we believe Jesus was announcing a way of becoming awake and a way of letting go of the sin that these wounds create in ourselves and in our world.
Hence, we believe that everyone is in need of being rescued from the fallout these unseen places often produce. We believe this sort of salvation is for everyone, regardless of race or religion. We also believe it is a process that is meant to unfold throughout a lifetime and is best experienced within the context of a loving and patient community.
What do you believe about the death and resurrection of Jesus?
For centuries, Christians have attempted to make sense of the death and resurrection of Jesus. In the death of Jesus we observe God entering into or standing in solidarity with human suffering at its worst. Not to change his own mind about evil, but to change the minds of you and I about our selves, our enemies and the lengths to which God will go to in order to express his love and hope for the world. Not to judge evil but to transform it from the inside out.
What do you believe about Eucharist or Communion?
In the death and resurrection of Jesus, we see Jesus’ body broken and blood poured out for the healing of the world. Communion at Watershed is an invitation to be reminded of what Jesus did through the agonizing experience of death. But it’s also a celebration of the life that is born out of death. It’s an invitation as a community to embrace this same process in our own lives and allow whatever subsequent life or newness that grows out of the experience of pain, death or loss to matter in redemptive and life-giving ways to the rest of the world. Communion for Watershed is an invitation to anyone who is interested in this sort of life that we observe in Jesus. We observe communion as a symbolism of remembrance and also a practice of community in breaking bread and sharing the table.
What do you believe about identity and human sexuality?
We believe humanity is a complex and profound concoction of spirit, experience and unseen realities in ourselves. Hence, identity and sexuality is no less complex and profound. To varying degrees we all carry a distorted sense of sexuality and identity. The brokenness we all experience throughout our lifetimes and our shared pain should call us to love, empathize and identify with each other more so than an agreed upon set of beliefs about such things.
At Watershed we acknowledge that sexual expression can be both life giving as well as destructive to ourselves and to others, regardless of orientation. We believe God’s love and acceptance is not withheld from anyone due to their sexual identity or expression. Grace allows us to believe in this. In a world where people of various races or sexual identities are often vilified, labeled as evil or shunned, Watershed believes it is essential to create equal and safe opportunities for people of variance in the way they sexually self-identify. We also believe it is essential as a community to encourage and model healthy relationships – relationships that are marked by fidelity, monogamy and commitment- relationships that honor the sacred, God-given nature of human beings and wholeness and oneness with each other.
What do you believe about social justice, sin and evil?
Since our inception Watershed’s passion for undermining systems that perpetuate human suffering has slowly grown. This is no small task. The reasons behind evil and suffering are as complex and deep as creation itself. Yet, if we are serious about love of neighbor as ourselves and love of God with our heart, soul, mind and strength, then it’s important to not only name evil when it surfaces, but it’s also important to give of ourselves in love to undermine whatever system is producing suffering and pain.
Watershed believes that our response to the change we experience in our life with God should activate our empathy and compassion to personally and communally respond to systematic suffering; lovingly, creatively, non-violently, sacrificially and purposefully.
What do you believe about baptism?
Watershed embraces baptism as a living metaphor for what happens as a person’s life with God and in Christ begins to shift. We often explain baptism as a way of “going public” with your faith and relationship with God. A person who receives baptism through Watershed is acknowledging that at this particular point in his/her journey with God, his/her old life, practices or paradigms are dying or being washed away and something new is being raised out of the old. A new life IN Christ is being born and we commemorate this public display of an inward shift with the ancient tradition of baptism.
What do you believe about Heaven and Hell?
It’s not hard to look around the world and observe human suffering. It’s also naive to believe you and I are free from any responsibility in regards to the way others suffer. So much of our way of living in the developed word is supported by industries, policies or ideologies that are indifferent to the sustainability of the planet or the need to provide fair compensation or safe working environments for the people who provide consumers with goods and services.
It’s not hard to look around and notice environments that are best described as hell for those who are on the receiving end of abusive power, greed or lust. A desire to understand what happens to you after you die is both a normal and natural desire. And Jesus, as well as the scriptures, give us plenty to wrestle with on this front. But Jesus was also passionate about wanting heaven, God’s reality (grace, compassion, mercy, justice), to come to this earth. Jesus even prayed that this would be the result produced from his life. And while Watershed will often engage dialogue about what happens after a person dies, the conversation that we find more interesting is what happens in our lives with each other and in this world before you die. In other words, how will your life becoming more alive and more in sync with the ways of Jesus make ways for heaven to overwhelm the hells that we know exist today for others?
This still seems too vague for me. Can you give me something more?
One of Watershed’s strengths since inception has been our willingness to sit with the tension or the disruptive nature of new questions about life, faith and the divine. Watershed has always found energy in being the first (verses the last) word on many topics. Just as Jesus often asked more questions than made statements we desire to engage people in searching and knowing rather than doling out irrefutable laws. We believe in the questioning and pursuit of God He reveals himself to the spiritual seeker in beautiful and individual ways and we seek to cultivate that process rather than be the center of it.
The experience and the feedback from those who call Watershed home has been that this is both difficult and freeing. It can be messy yet full of awakening. It can feel destabilizing to question ideas you’ve been conditioned to support or never been given permission to vet. But it can also become liberating when such an idea or belief has been harmful or caused someone to shut down or dismiss God altogether.
We believe that true change and a deeper life with God is rooted in our willingness to embrace this sort of process. Throughout our Sunday teaching series and throughout the experiences we offer in Preface and our Bloc community in general we press into a variety of beliefs and ways of thinking that move beneath the layers of systems of belief.
It may also be helpful to know that Watershed believes that God’s love is scandalously large and encompassing. As simple as it sounds, we believe that loving God and loving others as ourselves can be really difficult. We believe that it’s much easier to believe things about God, about Jesus or about the Bible than it is to really see, hear or empathize with others enough to love them the way God sees or loves all people.
We recognized that for some, straightforward answers will be more important than a willingness to accommodate, within the context of community, ideas that may press up against unchallenged assumptions. But our hope in providing some “first words” on these frequently posed questions is not only to help you feel safe, but to evoke a greater curiosity to continue to find traction in your life with God as a part of Watershed. John wrote in the scriptures that “God is love and whoever lives in love lives in God and God in them” (1 John 4:16 NIV). That is where we stand and as Paul wrote in his letter to the church in Corinth in the infamous chapter on love, I Corinthians 13, that we’re “squinting in a fog, peering through a mist” when it comes to fully grasping or seeing God. But rising out of all of our imperfections and perceptions we as the church, people who are open to transformation, will come together, as Paul reminds us, to...
“Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.”
Mission, Vision, Values
Embodying God together.
A church, city and world becoming fully alive in Christ.
Relationships — Investing in relationships that cultivate mutual care, authenticity, and love between ourselves and others.
Transformation — Creating space and giving permission for the pursuit of a renovated mind, heart and life.
Ownership — Taking responsibility for the community of Watershed and our world/environment through serving, stewardship and generosity.
Justice — Uncovering, confronting and transforming broken systems in society that create human suffering.
The process of transformation:
Transformation is not accidental. It must be pursued. Paul, one of the first century church fathers said, "Do not be conformed to the ways of the world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind." Our minds and our lives shift in one of two ways. We are either swept away and influenced by the conditions and dispositions we find ourselves a part of, or, as critical thinkers, we fight against the current intentionally and bring to a resolve the reality of God. Not a simple or easy task, but one that is necessary if we are to truly embrace the wisdom of God and experience the transformation of which Paul speaks.
How is transformation pursued at Watershed?
At Watershed, we view transformation as dependent upon three interlocking elements. When a person is pursuant of connecting relationally, growing holistically and serving unselfishly, these three pursuits work together to create a greater place of personal health and transformation.
our value of relationships with others and God
From the onset of creation, God's intention has never been solitude. We are designed to be relationally connected. It is through the chaos of interacting with one another that we grow, stretch and live life fully. As a community we will always strive for deeper and healthier relationships with one another, and most importantly with God.
our pursuit of life transformation
Jesus was constantly challenging those around Him to think and live differently. His challenge was not limited to a transformation of beliefs but also for a holistic transformation (mind, body, and soul) in all that we are and in the midst of everything we do. Watershed will constantly push, pull and pursue personal growth...in essence, life transformation.
the heartbeat of Watershed
Communities that are primarily relational and social tend to be exclusive and lack depth. Through Jesus, God has depicted Himself as the ultimate servant. Through this expression we know that God loves deeply, gives generously and serves sacrificially. We value serving as individuals and as a community because it is the way of Jesus. Serving is transformational and a bridge to those who are hurting and in need of recognizing God's love. We value being a community that is engaging God through serving in a variety of capacities and venues.