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What is Justice? V | What to Do About Evil

What is Justice? V | What to Do About Evil

From inception Watershed has sought to put justice at the forefront of our mission. Whether embedded into the themes of pop culture artifacts or real life events in our city, nation, and world, justice has become a hot topic. Pastor of Justice Cedric Lundy has been conducting a blog series aimed at unpacking our understanding of justice and why it’s fundamental to our community. This post is part 5 of that series.

What distinguishes injustice from evil? As discussed in the previous blog post in this series at the root of injustice is the fundamental question of “what is enough?” When we either individually or corporately sense we are less it often results in us taking more, which often leaves others with less, and a crazy cycle ensues often resulting in entire systems and institutions of injustice. Evil then is when shame and or blame has led to a complete dehumanization of an individual or group of people. 

While injustice is often times the slow cooker of evil it doesn’t require institutions or systemic injustice to function. Evil is a direct and often overt action that can be perpetrated against someone whom the evildoer has so fully dehumanized that their actions (in their mind) are completely justified. There is no limit to the amount of shame and blame that can be leveled on their victim. 

I recognize this framing of evil may not line up with the accepted dictionary definition, but for our purposes I’m attempting to place evil within a theological framework that isn’t as simplistic as pointing to sin. I believe this is important because just calling it sin functionally excludes anyone who doesn’t align with a historically Christian or “biblical” worldview, and if we’re really to address the problem of evil in a way that includes everyone then we’ve got to work within a framework that is accessible to all.

The problem of evil has always plagued mankind. At times it seems as though it’s not going anywhere any time soon despite the fact that history would show the world as a whole is becoming less violent and more peaceful than at any time in recorded history. Which is especially hard to believe when the headlines recently have been filled with multiple terrorist attacks (several of them in London alone) in less than a month. Even with the gradual downward trend of violence (not that violence is the only measure of evil in the world), what are we to do about the problem of evil in the world? Many would refer to this gradual downward trend as progress, more specifically human progress. Which is why when something horrifically evil happens many living in first world comfort will declare that they have “lost faith in humanity”. The doctrine of progress has declared certain things unacceptable in modern times due solely to the fact that mankind has progressed past them.

New Testament scholar N.T. Wright in his book Evil and the Justice of God points out three characteristics or flaws in the Doctrine of Human Progress approach to dealing with evil. One, we ignore evil when it doesn’t hit us in the face (read: it doesn’t affect us or others like us). Second we are surprised when it does hit us in the face. Lastly we, in large part due to our shock, react in immature and dangerous ways.

We sit in the comfort of our first world privileges insulated from regular exposure to real evil able to not simply ignore it, but orchestrate life rhythms void of any dissonance. Thus not only are we surprised when it does hit us in the face, we are deeply offended. Is it possible that due to our shock and surprise when evil hits us in the face that we take it too personally? I’m not sure, but it would make sense of why our reaction to evil is often immature and dangerous.

Nowhere is that immaturity better seen than when our response to evil is to enact the very acts we condemn on those who wielded it to begin with. When our response to evil is to make evildoers suffer or destroy or eradicate them we’ve fallen into the same trap of dehumanizing them. An eye for eye makes the whole world blind. A bomb for a bomb leaves the whole world a heap of rubble.

Without getting into all the history of the drug war in America, much legislation was passed over a great many years that criminalized drug use and sought to perpetually penalize drug users as felons rather than rehabilitate them. The power of addiction shouldn’t be underestimated, however when one’s ability to re-enter society and become a contributing member of it are severely limited due to the penalties that curtail one’s chances of employment and higher education, the chances that an individual will go back to doing drugs or worse increases.

Perpetually penalizing as a solution to evil just doesn’t work. In fact many attempts to solve evil by punishment not only fails to provide a real solution but actually perpetuates evil. 

And therein lies the great mystery of Jesus dying on the cross.

Often times the question has been asked “why did Jesus have to die?”. However, that question reframes the narrative of Jesus’ death. It is blind to the fact that Jesus didn’t simply die one day, he was killed; Jesus didn’t have to die, he was killed. He was arrested on bogus charges supported by false testimony and then executed. Practically speaking there was no need for Jesus to die. On the other hand Jesus, who had openly criticized the sacrificial system as broken and too often a perpetrator of the cycle of evil it sought to appease, became its target. The sacrificial system was meant to provide a solution to the problem of evil, and it saw Jesus as a threat. 

It has been surmised that Jesus’ willingly allowing himself to be killed was in fact an act of submission to the powers of evil and letting them do their absolute worst. From this his proclaimed resurrection is seen as a victory over evil and the key to solving the problem of evil. It is the theological equivalent of Muhammad Ali’s infamous “rope a dope” tactic. For you non boxing historians, the “rope a dope” was Ali’s tactic of leaning up against the ropes of the ring in a defensive posture using his arms to protect his head and core, allowing his opponent to wail away on him. Ali famously employed this tactic on one of the most powerful hard hitting heavy weights who ever lived for seven rounds just waiting for Foreman to exhaust himself. As Foreman tells it he hit Ali as hard as he could only for Ali to peer out from behind his gloves and say, “Is that all you’ve got?”, to which Foreman said, “Yup that’s it.” He says that he knew at that moment he was going to lose. The difference being that Jesus doesn’t hit back to knock evil out, he rises, and at that sight evil knows it has nothing left. He shows that the way to defeat evil, to really solve the problem of evil is to allow for evil to literally wear itself out. 

It is that approach to solving the problem of evil that was employed by Ghandi and his followers to overcome British imperialism in India. That is the approach to solving the problem of evil that was employed by Martin Luther King Jr. and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with their willingness to allow the angry mobs to do their worst. It is said that the tide was turned in the Civil Rights Movement the day a national audience saw negroes getting beaten to within an inch of their lives on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma.

And therein lies the true problem of evil. Not that we don’t know how to overcome evil but that it comes at a tremendous cost most of us are not willing to take. Are we truly willing to let evil do its worst? Are willing to let evil take our lives in order to overcome it? Too often the answer is no. We’d rather fight fire with fire. We’d rather have vengeance than peace. We’d rather feel justified than be crucified.

What Is Justice? IV | Restorative Justice Via Blessing

What Is Justice? IV | Restorative Justice Via Blessing

From inception Watershed has sought to put justice at the forefront of our mission. Whether embedded into the themes of pop culture artifacts or real life events in our city, nation, and world, justice has become a hot topic. Over the course of the next few weeks Pastor of Justice Cedric Lundy is going to conduct a blog series aimed at unpacking our understanding of justice and why it’s fundamental to our community. 

What’s enough? Abram and Lot both had more than enough wealth in the economy of the ancient world and yet there was seemingly not enough land to support both of them dwelling together. There was strife between the herdsmen of their livestock. Unlike Cain and Abel they come to an agreement that the tension needed to be resolved, but how? They decided to separate.

Rewind a chapter in the book of Genesis and we see the promise that God gives to Abram to bless him, make of him a great nation, and to bless those who bless him and curse those who curse him, and in him all families of the earth shall be blessed.

Blessed is an interesting word. Now-a-days we largely use it to say that we’ve experienced some sort of divinely appointed stroke of good fortune, like an upfront parking spot at the mall on a Saturday, or to shut down a conversation on how we’re really doing. However, in ancient Jewish thought it was much more than simple good fortune accredited to the divine. To be blessed by someone was to be fortunate because someone was present to you. To bless another was to literally be with someone, to be present.

With that in mind, Lot was the first person mentioned to bless or be with Abram after God made the promise to bless or be present with Abram. Abram left behind everything he had known, his country and his kindred, to chase after what probably seemed like foolishness to everyone. Everyone except Lot who decides he is going to remain present with his uncle. Yet here they are about to separate because their herdsmen can’t get along, and it’s about to turn ugly.

In the account we receive in scripture it appears that Lot truly was cursed after separating from Abram. In Genesis 14 Lot and all he possess is taken captive in a war in the region where he settled. In Genesis 19 Lot barely escapes Sodom and Gomorrah before it is destroyed. A widower and completely broken and afraid, Lot, with his daughters, decided to live in a cave in the hills.

A cave… let that sink in for a minute. How scared, how scarred, how broken would you have to be by war and injustice to decide that the best, most safe place would be in a cave in the middle of nowhere? But wait, it gets better, and by better I mean worse.

We are told that, while in the cave in isolation having given up hope of having husbands, Lot’s daughters devise a plan to get their father drunk and have sex with him in order to get pregnant. Regardless of whether or not this is true or really happened, the point the text is making is that one of the sons of this incestuous encounter would be credited as the father of the Moabites who went on to be one of Israel’s enemies for generations to come.

For generations after, the offspring of Lot would be a curse to the offspring of Abram and their very existence considered a curse solely based on their origin via incest. How is it that the very first person to bless Abram in whom “all the families of the earth would be blessed” would come to be the poster child of accursed? It seems rather unjust, plain just not right.

That is until a young widow traveled back to the native land and kin of her mother-in-law.

In the hands of modern readers the story of Ruth as put forth in the sacred scriptures has often been used to promote godly womanhood. It’s been used to encourage and instill hope in those whose lives turned tragic. Yet, it’s not about godly womanhood nor is it really about God redeeming an individual. It’s about redemption and restoration of a family, an uncle and his nephew. It’s about a blessing becoming a curse becoming a blessing all over again.

Ruth is a Moabite, a daughter descended from Lot, and her new husband Boaz is an Israelite, a son descended from Abram. In the small book of Ruth we see what was understood to be, by ancient Jewish scholars, God joining back together two things that had been separated, Abram and Lot, in preparation for the arrival of God’s anointed King David. Ruth ends with a brief genealogy that places David as the great grandson of Boaz and Ruth.

So what is the significance of this story to our understanding of restorative justice?

One, the divine’s mode of operation when it comes to bringing about justice from injustice in our world seems to be through blessing or presence. The divine promises to bless Abram is presented as the catalyst to bless all the families of the earth.

Secondly, as alluded to already, Judaism understood or interpreted the sacred scriptures by looking for patterns that grew into something larger greater more inclusive and all-encompassing. King David is often seen as the archetype for “The Lord’s Anointed” who is most fully realized in the Messiah or Jesus The Christ. Jesus, who announced the poor, the meek, and the hungry, the very people who were most often associated with being cursed by God, were in fact blessed by God.

Taking those things into account could it be that the beginning of practicing restorative justice is as simple and complex as blessing others? Could it be that the beginning of restorative justice is to look for those who are separate and bring them back in? To be present to those who are broken, scared and scarred? To be joined with those who are often seen as a curse?

At Watershed we are energized by seeing people in our community who practice restorative justice by being a blessing to the marginalized, the excluded, the separate, and the other. There are no quick fixes. No fly by rescue missions. Truly restorative justice also restores us one to another so that we can be truly present to each other, fully human.

POUR OVER: The Next Step

POUR OVER: The Next Step

What would each of our staff members share if we had the chance to sit down with you one-on-one over a cup of coffee? What is God doing in our lives, and how are we personally experiencing transformation and awakening? Pour Over is a blog series by our Watershed staff members answering those very questions. Today we'll hear from Becky Santoro, Watershed's Children's Pastor.

I guess it’s always been there. Always in the background, though. I’d pass a poster with a sign on it or I’d have student in my class who would identify as it. I’d talk about it, try to imagine it, and try to dismiss it. But a few summers ago, the voice got louder and my heart kept saying, “if not you, who?”

So I brought it up over dinner on our tenth wedding anniversary. 

Becoming foster care parents. 

We had just started a full-time business, we had a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, and I had recently transitioned to a full-time position at Watershed. Our house is tiny… 1,000 square feet. We are still paying off student loans, our family lives thousands of miles away. I could list literally 50 more reasons at least about why this just wasn’t the “right time” for us on paper. But he agreed and a few weeks later we decided to take just one step forward. Just one. And we set a rule for ourselves: if at any point we decided “not now” or “no”, we’d give ourselves a ton of grace and turn back. 

Just one step at a time. That’s it.

So we went to an informational class. And we didn’t talk the whole time. And then we sat in the car and we were still silent.

“Well?” I finally said.

“It’s time to take another step, don’t you think?” he said.


And that’s how the next 10 months went. 

One step.

Then the next one.

It was the classes, the paperwork, the conversations, the inviting of our closest friends to bear witness to the process and give their perspectives, the background checks, and the home inspections.

In all of it, we didn’t move away from that “next step thinking”. Each time we tried to live just in that step… not overthinking or forward planning too much. It allowed us to just be where we were and to stay mentally present. When a new decision needed to be made, we wouldn’t think beyond that one decision.

It was really freeing in a way. Our “next step thinking” took the pressure off knowing all the answers and we found that it allowed us to stay grounded and rooted into what we both felt was best with the knowledge we had at the time. It took six months until we found ourselves fully licensed foster care parents.

Maybe there’s something inside your heart or gut that keeps coming up. It might not make any sense to you on paper and you can easily sweep it under the rug, but in the quiet spaces of your mind, it lives. 

There is so much power that exists in taking just one step… especially when you can figure it out as you go, allowing yourself to take your time and live within each new step fully. Maybe today is the day you finally take that step. Don’t overthink it. Just one step, friends.

Or maybe you’ve taken a step… several, even… but that next step would mean you’d have to let go of something. Perhaps to the known, secure, comfortable way of life, or even a past belief. You’re not sure if you’re ready for that quite yet. Grace upon grace, friends.

On July 21st, 2016, our next step was the final home inspection. Less than a hour later we received the call (side note: If you ever wondered if there was a need for foster care parents here in Charlotte, I believe you just found your answer).

“Baby girl, one year old. Local to Charlotte. Will you take her?”

Our next step was saying yes. 

Literally overnight we became a family of five. Now we’ve been saying yes for 258 days and counting. It has been redemptive, exhausting, transformational, frustrating, beautiful, disruptive, fulfilling, complicated, joyful, and messy all at the same time. But it has also shifted. We no longer have the power to take a “next step.” We’re on the same step with no clear timeline or outcome in sight.

We are waiting.

It’s hard to stay in the “next step thinking” when you don’t have control over it, right? 

Maybe there is something that has you in a holding pattern… you’ve been there for awhile and you feel frozen. It’s out of your control with no “next step” in sight. There may never be if you’re honest.

Or maybe you are faced with taking the next step knowing there is a real possibility that it won’t breathe the outcome you hope for, and you’re wondering if it’s worth the risk.

Or maybe the next step was decided for you.

I’m there too.

We aren’t sure if or when she will leave us. We’re not sure if a day in the future will include us packing her bags for uniting/reuniting with members of her family, or if it will include joining our family permanently. Either way, it will be a celebration. Either way, there will be bittersweet tears. But right now, there is no next step. It’s just the waiting. 

And so I wait on this step and I am trying to learn how to become more self-aware in this season when my mind and soul are weary for answers and outcomes. I try to visualize myself physically planting my feet down and dwelling within this step, JUST within today, in this moment, in this tiny house as a temporary or permanent family of 5.

So… What is God doing in my life, and how am I personally experiencing transformation and awakening? 

He’s teaching me that He’s in the “one steps” with me.

He’s in the waiting and we’re co-creating this story together. 

He's showing me what real living looks like… it’s not in the huge shifts but in the everyday, right-now life.

It’s simple, it’s holy, and it’s hard work to stay put in a moment of time. So I dwell there, with Him. 

These days I’m taking notice of my breath, my habits, and my triggers, trying to become more aware of myself and His presence when I want to jump off of the step or rush ahead to find out how this story will end. And I’m reaching out to my people, the ones standing there with me, reminding me that this story is all of ours, too.

Today, may you take a step forward into your life and discover more of your true self in the process. May it include walking into someone elses brokenness and finding that this was meant for the redemption of your own brokenness as well. May you have people around you who can root for you and remind you that they’re standing on the step with you. 

And may you feel His presence and Spirit in the waiting like you’ve never felt before.


P.S. If we actually did sit down for coffee there are five things I could promise you:

  1. There will be smashed goldfish crackers in my coat pocket. 
  2. I’ll have a random sock in my purse.
  3. This will be my 4th cup of coffee.
  4. There'll be snot on my pants… exactly at the height of a 3-year-old.
  5. I won’t do small talk very long. Let’s get right into the heart. 

Now that we've got that out of the way, welcome. Let’s chat.

In case our journey to foster care spurred some questions about the process, maybe your first step is to just click HERE and learn more about it: 

What is Justice? III | Injustice More or Less

What is Justice? III | Injustice More or Less

From inception Watershed has sought to put justice at the forefront of our mission. Whether embedded into the themes of pop culture artifacts or real life events in our city, nation, and world, justice has become a hot topic. Over the course of the next few weeks Pastor of Justice Cedric Lundy is going to conduct a blog series aimed at unpacking our understanding of justice and why it’s fundamental to our community. 

So often when discussing Genesis 3 it is easy to get sidetracked asking questions about the tree and the fruit, why God put it there, and why the punishment for eating from the wrong tree so severe. A very literal reading of Genesis 3 raises all kinds of questions that are difficult to answer. On the other hand, reading Genesis 3 as a story which explains the realities of the way things are may supply us with more epiphanies of understanding about what happened, is happening, and will continue to happen if we repeat their course of action when faced with similar dilemmas.

Eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil may actually have little to do with good and evil as we’ve come to understand. It may have nothing to do with mankind being exposed to something outside of their person and a battle between good and evil, the light and the dark. Is fruit really about good versus evil? Clearly in the first two chapters God didn’t set up a world of opposing planes of positive and negative. This is best illustrated by the fact that God makes the sun to mark the day and the moon to mark the night. Nowhere in the creation narrative is there an inference that the night is intrinsically bad or the day better than the night. The day and the night are two halves of a whole, a day, and together they are good.

Maybe a better name for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil would be "the tree of what’s enough”.

In the story of the fall Adam and Eve aren’t tempted to eat from that which they’ve been instructed until they are deceived into thinking that the tree is offering more. They are led to believe by eating the fruit that they can be more. Prior to being deceived into thinking they were missing out and that there was more, they were happy with what they had. They were satisfied with who they are, their relationship with God, one another and with the rest of creation. They didn’t feel as though they were missing out on something by not eating from that tree because, at the end of the day, it’s just one tree amongst a multitude of trees.

It is the first time in their lives that they are faced with the question of whether or not they had enough. It is the first time in their lives they consider that they aren’t enough. They took the bait, and, as a result, good and evil entered the world in the constant conundrum of more or less. At the heart of ‘what’s enough’ is the moral dilemma of more or less.

Shalom is not simply the absence of evil because everything is good and everything is good because God didn’t create anything intrinsically evil. Shalom is the idea that there is harmony between the creator and his creation and the creation with itself because the creator has given and supplied all of his creation with enough. The Fall, or disordering of Shalom, began as soon as Adam and Eve acted on the belief that they were no longer enough and desired more by taking and eating. In that moment they had to choose between taking more, believing they weren’t enough, or choosing less believing they were enough. The irony being that they opted for more and in return they had less. Immediately upon eating the fruit they felt like less, ashamed of their nakedness. Feeling like less led them to take more. The clothes served the purpose of covering what they were now ashamed of, their bodies. Not that making clothes is an inherently bad thing, however how much more has our feeling like less cost creation?

It’s worth noting there is no indication of them being ashamed of what they did. They were ashamed of what they were. Who they were was no longer enough. They felt less about themselves and in response they took something because their shame required more. Ultimately the common thread of the curses God pronounces to Adam and Eve is a lack of trust that has resulted from them believing they didn’t have enough and taking more. Mankind doesn’t trust God, mankind doesn’t trust one another, and the rest of creation doesn’t trust mankind. There’s enmity between the man and the woman, the plants grow thorns, and with great pain and anguish we multiply and provide for ourselves.

Unfortunately the struggle with what’s enough and for more or less continued immediately. In the following narratives of scripture Cain kills Abel, angry that it seems what he offers to the divine is not enough (ironically, in an agricultural civilization, God’s favor was perceived through the lens of receiving more or less of what ever was offered). In the days of Noah prior to the flood men are described as taking “as their wives any they chose.” The tower of babel just builds up on top of itself instead of expanding outward away from it self to include the world beyond its walls. 

How many injustices can we observe in our world today and in the annals of history that were sparked by the question, “what is enough?” How much blood has been spilled and stomachs stayed hollow due to the endless cycle of some having more, some having less, but neither one having enough? Some have more but feel like they can never have enough and so they take more. Others have less. They literally don’t have enough food, clothing, education, resources, etc. Countless wars have been started simply because someone wanted more, and countless revolutions were sparked because others were tired of less.

How many injustices can we observe in our world persist because of the cycle of shame and blame? We feel ashamed of who we are and we blame or scapegoat others for the things we feel ashamed of instead of dealing with the real problem which is resolving the question of what is enough.  

So whether or not we read Genesis 3 as an actual historical event or a metaphor, I’m sure we can all agree that it happened and is happening. We consider what’s enough, and we more or less decide it’s not.

What Is Justice? II  |  "In the Beginning"

What Is Justice? II | "In the Beginning"

From inception Watershed has sought to put justice at the forefront of our mission. Whether embedded into the themes of pop culture artifacts or real life events in our city, nation, and world, justice has become a hot topic. Over the course of the next few weeks Pastor of Justice Cedric Lundy is going to conduct a blog series aimed at unpacking our understanding of justice and why it’s fundamental to our community. 

“This social justice agenda is an add on to the gospel by liberals and progressive Christians, but it has no biblical basis.” I simply replied, “Well as a Pastor of Justice, I’m just going to have to disagree with you. I can assure you there is tons of biblical basis for justice, social or otherwise.”

I don’t think my friend meant offense by what he said. He wasn’t trying to get my goat. He was simply just sharing an opinion on the current cultural and political landscape of our country. It didn’t surprise me to hear a comment like that. In all honesty I wouldn’t be surprised to discover that a lot of Christians believe there is no biblical basis for social justice. I’ve heard other pastors refer to “social gospels” as though it were some well meaning, but ultimately neutering of the “real” gospel. That somehow a “social” gospel is a gospel with an agenda that wasn’t Christ’s agenda and relies on non-biblical sources to make its case. Martin Luther King Jr. was often criticized by the Christian community for being a socialist.

The truth is that taking out the portions of scripture where justice is explicit or even implicit would be like removing the advertisements out of Cosmopolitan magazine. You’d be left with little more than the binding and a few seemingly random pages. The fact that we’d need to emphasize the gospel being “social” is evidence that our default gospel telling is set to “self-center”. It should be no surprise that the biblical basis for social justice starts at the beginning; the very beginning of the biblical narrative in the book of Genesis.

What makes for a just space? Judaism has a one word for that which dates back to ancient times. Shalom. In English shalom translates to peace, which unfortunately does not begin to capture the robustness of what Judaism was trying to communicate. Our usage of peace typically means the absence of conflict. The picture the writers of Genesis paints of the beginning is absent of conflict, but it is also absent of any signs of life. The earth is described as being “without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep.”

What happens next and its significance is often lost on those who want to debate on whether or not it should be taken literally. We are witnesses to the fact that the earth is not formless and devoid of light and life. We know that the earth is teeming with life and light and beauty of seemingly infinite form. Far from being empty, it is full.

Genesis gives its own poetic account of the divine speaking creating and declaring good things on the earth. The divine creates entire social system of plant life, wildlife and human beings all “blessed” with the ability to continue the creation process or as the writer simply puts multiply! At the end of their work the divine looks at the earth and declares it all very good.

But what is good about it?

This is where the Jewish understanding of peace or shalom is tantamount. It is good because there is complete and undeterred individual and corporate harmony between and amongst every inch of the earth and its creatures. If Genesis 1 had a theme song, Radiohead’s “Everything In Its Right Place” seems the obvious choice. Shalom is the idea that everything is as it ought to be.

Justice depends on the idea that our world, and everything in it, was good and is good. Justice is the belief that whatever has gone wrong with our world can be made right. Justice is the ethic that our goodness as mankind is tied together with the goodness of this world we inhabit. Creation didn’t end after the sixth day. Most everything that fills the earth was bestowed a blessing to continue the creation process by being fruitful and multiplying. In the Genesis 2 account mankind is explicitly invited into the vocation of creating more when God tells them to work the ground and keep it. Eden had no boundaries no fence no limits. It was always meant to go forth and expand. The world is the showcase for our creative endeavors that multiply and expand goodness and thicken shalom.

Last but certainly not least shalom is also the idea that everyone and everything has enough. Some have more and some have less but everyone has enough. Everyone and everything have enough to contribute to the increase and expanse of good in our world. Everyone and everything have enough to keep inadequacy, or shame, and guilt or blame out of the equation.

Justice recognizes when this isn’t the case and springs into action to make things right. To pursue, at times what seems impossible, shalom. For things to no longer simply be the way they are, nor the way they could be, but to be how it ought to be.

At Watershed we are energized by seeing people in our community who see the absence of shalom and respond by using their resources, ingenuity, and creativity in unison with others, to bring about shalom. That’s how we know people really truly understand what justice is, why it’s needed, and that it is inherently social. 

Volunteer Friday #11

Volunteer Friday #11


Every other Friday we take a moment to introduce you to someone in our community who serves in one or more of Watershed's many volunteer areas: GreenHouse/Shed StudentsSunday TeamsCatapultBloc Leading, etc. The featured volunteer will then select someone he/she would like to see highlighted next.

This week, meet Derek!



Volunteer Area(s): Set-up Team, Catapult at Byers

Why did you choose to volunteer in each of your areas?

Set-up team started several years ago after some very endearing arm twisting from Matt O'Neil. Then I got to know some of the great guys who are there at 7:30 a.m. every Sunday and it feels cool to be a part of the unsung heroes behind the scenes.

I started tutoring at Byers in 2012 shortly after returning from a Watershed trip to Guatemala. That trip forever changed how I viewed generosity and investing in people to glorify God. Catapult is one of the single greatest things we do as a community and I'm so grateful to have met the most amazing family in the process who I now consider to be a part of my family.

What has been one of your favorite moments as a volunteer? 

Last summer my wife and I we're able to purchase a used mini van for the mother of our Byers kids. The generous donations from so many of you at Watershed left me in awe of our community and what God is capable of after a big leap of faith. Taking a 42-year-old mother of seven children to pick up the first vehicle she's ever owned and watching her sign the title with tears in her eyes was easily the best moment yet. 

If you could use only one word to describe our Watershed community, what would it be


Describe your perfect day in Charlotte:

18 holes in the morning, all Charlotte sports teams win, then a friends gathering at Cantina with never ending queso.



What Is Justice?

What Is Justice?

From inception Watershed has sought to put justice at the forefront of our mission. Whether embedded into the themes of pop culture artifacts or real life events in our city, nation, and world, justice has become a hot topic. Over the course of the next few weeks Pastor of Justice Cedric Lundy is going to conduct a blog series aimed at unpacking our understanding of justice and why it’s fundamental to our community. 

The dictionary definition of justice is as follows…

“The maintenance or administration of what is just, especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments. The principle or ideal of just dealing or right action.”

Undoubtedly pop culture has shaped our understanding of justice. We have a plethora of television shows movies and comic book heroes who administer justice by pursuing evildoers and holding them accountable for their misdeeds. However, they most often present an incomplete picture of justice. The collateral damage in the form of property damage created during the heroine’s pursuit is usually glossed over. There are some exceptions.

Pixar’s The Incredibles builds a story where the collateral damage develops a major plot point. It leads to a flood of lawsuits that eventually leads to legislation forcing the supers to go into hiding. The movie Hancock starring Will Smith picks up a similar theme. Ever since watching those movies I find myself thinking about the millions dollars in property damage caused by the Avengers, Superman’s final battle with Zod in Man of Steel and not to be out done the Transformers franchise. Point being, we often have an incomplete understanding of what justice truly is evidenced by the popular stories we tell and consume.

On the other hand the Christian scriptures present a complete picture of justice one often easily missed. Many are familiar with Christian traditions where the climactic point in the story is when God banishes evildoers and the unrighteous to eternal punishment and suffering for their crimes.

However it has often left a huge unresolved issue, “What about Earth and all of creation?”

Many of the same Christian traditions would reply by indicating that Earth is destroyed after the saints are relocated to heaven, which only causes people to balk even further. Imagine a story where the heroines only save the inhabitants of Earth and not Earth itself?

You needn’t think too hard if you’ve seen the movie Interstellar. I absolutely love that movie, but I can’t help but wonder if I’d feel slightly different about it if the lasting image or scene from that movie was a dead and desolate Earth with no signs of life instead of a father who has literally crossed space and time to be reunited with his daughter. We get so lost in the image of Cooper boarding a ship to go find Brand all alone on her planet that we’ve all but forgotten that while the remaining humans have managed to escape there is no justice for planet Earth (as I’m writing this it's suddenly occurred to me that it appears they left all the animals there to die as well).

On the contrary, that depiction of the biblical narrative is an incomplete one. The story doesn’t end with Earth destroyed. It ends, or, better put, re-begins, with Earth being renewed. The saints don’t go up to heaven, heaven comes down to Earth. The original vision of heavens and Earth joined together without separation is recast.

In the same way something is missing when super heroes can ride off into the sunset satisfied that they’ve brought the villain to account while the city crumbles literally and financially, there is something missing when we paint the Divine as only concerned with saving souls... and matter does not matter. Assuming we all agree that all matter matters, Christians who promote this incomplete story need to be reminded that the Earth Matters (too!).

The end of the Bible in Revelation is not the only place where we see this picture of Earth being restored and renewed. It is mentioned in the similar language in the prophesies of Isaiah.

“For behold, I create new heaven and a new Earth…”

“They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they shall not plant and another eat.”

“The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall ear straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,’ says the Lord.”

All that being said, a complete yet simple definition of justice is “putting the wrongs to rights”. In the super hero movies it would look like the Avengers working to help restore and rebuild the cities that were laid waste in their epic battles to defeat their adversaries. In Harry Potter it would be Harry using the Elder Wand quickly to rebuild and restore Hogwarts before snapping it half and tossing it into the Black Lake (that always bothers me when I watch it). 

With the exception of Potter, where it’s as simple as a waving of his wand and everything magically coming back together like new, a scene where we see the process of justice come to completion isn’t a climatic high point. Justice, the real substantial justice that we long for, is long and slow. It doesn’t happen over night. The pains and wrongs of this world didn’t happen over night, so it only makes sense for the real work of justice to be long and slow as well.

When we talk about justice at Watershed, it is with this understanding of justice.

When we look at the Christian scriptures we can’t help but be drawn to this over-arching theme of the Divine creating an entire world worth saving, not just its inhabitants. We see a God who is deeply invested in putting the world to rights. We see a God who is about long, and sometimes painfully slow, justice as He communes with mankind and equips us, the vulnerable ones in this equation, to be a part of bringing justice to His good creation.

Sure, Harry Potter could have used the Elder Wand to repair and restore Hogwarts in an instant, but I have to admit that there is something beautifully communal and healing for all who considered Hogwarts home to pocket their wands and get their hands dirty. There is a new level of ownership they’d all have by forgoing the quick, easy, sanitary way of rebuilding.

In the process, maybe they’d find some semblance of healing themselves as well.


Volunteer Friday #10

Volunteer Friday #10


Every other Friday we take a moment to introduce you to someone in our community who serves in one or more of Watershed's many volunteer areas: GreenHouse/Shed StudentsSunday TeamsCatapultBloc Leading, etc. The featured volunteer will then select someone he/she would like to see highlighted next.

This week, meet Evan!


Volunteer Area(s): Greeting Team, Catapult at Byers

Why did you choose to volunteer in each of your areas?

I enjoy helping greet people who visit Watershed and assist in answering any questions or alleviating any concerns. My wife and I live close to Byers and it has been a great opportunity to get involved in our neighborhood in addition to investing in the life of an amazing young student.

What has been one of your favorite moments as a volunteer? 

It has been really fun working with Caleb and watching his ability and confidence grow as we work on his reading and life skills.

If you could use only one word to describe our Watershed community, what would it be


Describe your perfect day in Charlotte:

Any activity with my wife and friends... 


NEXT I'D LIKE WATERSHED TO FEATURE derek WHITmire... HE is an amazing, selfless volunteer who pours into our church and the charlotte community!

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Reflections

Martin Luther King Jr. Day Reflections

By Cedric Lundy, Pastor of Justice 

How does one celebrate a day like Martin Luther King Jr. Day? It’s the same question some of us ask in regards to other days similar to it: Presidents Day, Memorial Day, Veterans Day. When it comes to these federal holidays, how each day is observed, if at all, seems to be disconnected from the significance of the person or people being remembered. In the case of MLK Day, a lot of people, myself included, have taken to posting their favorite quote of King’s on social media. Yet, in large part, MLK Day serves to remind me that, while we may think of King fondly, we are still largely confounded by how to break free from the societal systems that keep us segregated.

As a junior in high school I attended an all-boy Catholic School in suburban metro Detroit. Out of the approximately 980 students at the school, 21 of us were Black Americans. It being my first year there, I was informed that school was in session on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, but, since I was black, I could take an excused absence. The white students were not given the same exemption.

A few years ago I took a group of middle school students into uptown Charlotte early on a Saturday morning to pass out bag lunches and care packages to the homeless. I had a bad habit of scheduling these service opportunities on road race Saturdays, which can make getting from South Charlotte to uptown like navigating a labyrinth. On this particular day there wasn’t a race to contend with but, instead, a parade. I didn’t even know Charlotte did a MLK Day parade, but given how many black people there were in uptown that early on a Saturday morning, it wasn’t hard to figure out what was going on. It wouldn’t be far from the truth to say that my twelve or so students, all of whom were white, were the only white people to be seen on Tryon Street that morning along the parade route.  

The year the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts and Culture opened, my wife Emma and I, along with two friends of ours, went on MLK Day. The place was absolutely mobbed, however Emma and our two friends were the only white people there on a day when all of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools had the day off.

Despite his honored legacy of fighting against racial injustice and inequality (and, less mentioned, his brief foray into fighting against economic injustice and poverty), the fifty years that have passed since King’s death have proven at least one thing: the systems at the foundation of our culture and society and their penchant for keeping us divided from one another based on race and class have not been eradicated, but have merely adapted to the times. While the way we think about people of different races may have changed and become more inclusive, our society and culture have remained steadfast in keeping us excluded from one another and have allowed us to feel more familiar with race-based caricatures than actual people of different racial and cultural backgrounds. 

Our schools are still largely segregated. Our neighborhoods are still largely segregated. Our religious gathering places are largely segregated. Our work places are still largely segregated. While countless hearts have been affected by Dr. King, our societal systems have managed to persist in keeping us largely separated. 

Those of us African Americans who have managed to assimilate into the larger, dominant white society appear to be exceptions to the rule, and our assimilation often comes at a cost. We are often viewed as pariahs by those who consider us sellouts, for in their minds we have taken on the caricatures of white people in order to be accepted. And yet we are keenly aware of moments and places where we are still judged based upon the color of our skin regardless of the content of our character. Likewise, talk to white people who have either been born into a minority community or have made attempts to bridge racial divides by going into minority communities, and many will describesimilar experiences of never truly being accepted as the minority and of being viewed as misguided by their white peers.

I think if he were here today, Dr. King would be encouraged by the softening of our hearts to embrace the other, but discouraged by the resilience of our social systems to keep us separated while allowing just enough exceptions to the rule to make us feel like we are getting somewhere. I think he would challenge us to tap further into our imagination and creativity for how we can overcome together. I think he would continue to make all of us uncomfortable with our contentment with the way things are, calling us instead to press up against the system to finally realize what could be.

The Ripple Effect

The Ripple Effect

Here at Watershed we often encourage our volunteers to think big picture when it comes to serving in the community. Transformation (whether it be in an individual or in an entire system) rarely occurs overnight, so, in addition to celebrating little victories, we also ask people to consider the potential “ripple effect” of their efforts over the long haul.

Trusting the ripple effect can be challenging at times. We don’t always get to see the impact of our actions, and it takes real faith to believe that our efforts are meaningful even when we don’t have the immediate, tangible evidence to prove it. However, every now and then we do get to catch glimpses.

Natalie’s story begins as the result of a ripple.

“I had some wonderful volunteer tutors when I was a student in CMS,” Natalie remembers. “So I was thankful that I was going to have a chance to pay that forward!”

Two years ago Natalie Smith began volunteering at Walter G. Byers School through Watershed’s Catapult Initiative. She started off at Byers the same way most Catapult volunteers do: she tutored an elementary school student for 30-45 minutes each week. As she continued to show up to the school every Wednesday, she started to get to know a few of the staff members. One of those staff members was the school librarian.

“By the end of the school year I found myself helping out with the first book fair that the school had been able to put on in a number of years,” Natalie recalled. “During that week I was able to meet a number of teachers, and when End-of-Grade Tests (EOGs) came around, they asked if I would help proctor.”

Natalie had no idea when she signed up to help proctor EOGs that she would be paired with a teacher she had so much in common with.

“I was paired with the art teacher, Mrs. Barnes, to administer EOGs,” she said. “Through conversation we realized she actually used to work at the fabric store that my family now owns! We bonded over our shared interest in creativity.”

The chance pairing of the two during testing seemed more like more than just a mere coincidence. The conversations Natalie and Mrs. Barnes had during EOG week stuck with the art teacher, and ripples continued to spread when she approached Natalie with a request. 

“Mrs. Barnes actually approached me with the idea of selling the kids’ art work at our store. She had previously sold a few pieces at another store to earn some extra money for supplies for her classroom, but [that store] was closing and she was hoping we could sell a few pieces here and there.” 

The proposition seemed fantastic to Natalie, but she thought she could take it a step further.

“When she brought me all of the artwork she had, I knew I could do more than just sell a few pieces,” Natalie said.


Natalie turned 26 on November 19th, and about a month before her birthday she began inviting her circle of family and friends to celebrate with her… by purchasing artwork from her favorite elementary school students. Soon her Facebook and Instagram pages were filled with pictures of hand-drawn elephants, owls, cherry trees, and monsters. Her goal was to sell 26 pieces and give all of the proceeds back to the art department at the school. 

“My weekly involvement at Byers has been a beautiful silver lining [in a difficult 2016],” Natalie said. “The greatest birthday present I could think of was convincing the people who love me to give back to the teachers and students who have filled my heart with joy every single week.”

Natalie’s special fondness for Byers probably would have been motivation enough for her to dedicate her birthday to supporting the school, but, on top of her love for the community, she also just so happens to know a little more than the average person about how important artistic and creative opportunities can be for a child.

“I spent years studying the emotional benefits of creative outlets for children and strongly believe that creativity is necessary for any child, but even more so for children who are in high stress situations outside of school,” Natalie explained. “Some low-income schools in CMS have lost their art programs completely due to budget cuts, while the rest are left with extremely limited resources. I want to make sure that the students at Byers are given opportunities to lean into their creative strengths and become producers and admirers of beautiful work.”

When the ripple effects of so many passions and experiences collide at once, there’s no denying that something special is in store. 

“Weaving together my love for students, creativity, and lending a hand to our local schools was such a gift for my heart,” said Natalie.

Not surprisingly, Natalie reached her goal of selling 26 pieces of art, raising $775 for the art department at Byers in the process. All of the money went towards purchasing new art supplies so students can embrace their creative passions and talents more fully.

More than a decade ago Natalie was a CMS student who appreciated the time volunteers spent with her at school. Today she is a 26-year-old woman with a passion for paying it forward to some of her youngest neighbors in Charlotte.

As the ripples continue to spread, it’s anyone’s guess how the students impacted by Natalie’s generosity will grow and go on to touch the lives of others.

Even though her birthday campaign has ended, Natalie still has artwork for sale! All pieces are $15 and proceeds go directly to Byers School. Email if you're interested in purchasing any of the pieces below. For more information about how you can get involved with Catapult, Watershed's school partnership initiative, email


11 Things I Love About Malawi

11 Things I Love About Malawi

September marked Watershed's eleventh year as a community! To celebrate, each month until next September we’re bringing you a list of ELEVEN things someone in our community is passionate about. In addition to picking up some interesting new knowledge, we hope this series will help you get to know a handful of the incredible people who call Watershed home!

December’s ELEVEN list comes from Steve Cook, long-time Watershedder and founder of Equitas, a non-profit which provides opportunity through education for vulnerable children in the developing world. 

In 2006, Steve was reading an email and saw something in the sidebar that caught his attention: there are 27 million slaves in the world today. He clicked on the link and read an article about human trafficking in the world, and how there are more slaves today than there were when slavery was legal. Steve was then faced with a decision. He could close the article, go about his normal everyday life, and pretend he didn’t know anything about this, or choose to act on this knowledge and do something about it. He chose the latter and has never been the same.

Equitas is one of Watershed's global justice partners, and we're so proud of what Steve and his supporters have been able to accomplish in the name of love. Today Steve gives us a taste of why he fell in love with Malawi, the country in Africa where Equitas recently built a school. Who knows, maybe after reading Steve's ELEVEN list you'll feel drawn to this special place too...

11 Things I Love About Malawi

1) The smiles. Malawi culture is one of the friendliest I’ve experienced in the world. It matters not where you are - on the street in a bustling city or in the most rural area of the country - if you greet a stranger with a wave and smile, you will consistently receive a wave and smile in return.

2) The singing. Music is an integral part of life in Malawi. From sunrise to sunset, women and children can be heard carrying beautiful melodies while cooking, fetching water from a well, or working around the home. And when the choir comes together, it’s a wonderful array of full harmonies sung by men with booming bass and tenor, and women rounding out the sound with higher voices. You’ll also hear the occasional high-pitched trill.

3) The dancing. When a group comes together for a performance, singing is always accompanied by dancing. One of the highlights of my visits to Gadi Village is when the church choir performs. I join the men and boys in the back rows and try my best to keep up with their fast footwork. The inevitably end up laughing very hard at my attempts.

4) The meals. In the villages, people sit on bamboo mats on the floors of huts when eating meals. Before and after the meal, a basin of hot water with a cup inside is passed around, and you pour water over the hands of the person next to you so they can wash up. Food is placed in the center and bowls are passed around. It is an intimate time that always sparks interesting conversation.

5) The climate. Temperatures range from lows in the 60’s during the winter to highs in the 90’s during the summer. Since the country is so close to the equator, it definitely feels warmer during the heat of the day. But it is generally mild and can be very pleasant when there is a breeze.

6) The community. Most homes in villages are small. Rooms serve multiple purposes for eating meals, sleeping, or gathering for family discussions. But the majority of life is shared with family and neighbors in the common areas outside the homes. The open space beneath the shade of a large tree is your “living room." Some of my most cherished times in the villages have been walking through the fields or sitting on the porch of a home with my friends there. I’ve passed hours of a day like this with very few words spoken as we just enjoyed being together.

7) The markets. Loud, fast-paced and colorful, markets (larger ones are often referred to as trading centers) can occupy all corners of a major intersection on a highway or city street. They can be an adventure for your senses as you experience the aroma of searing goat, dried fish, grilled chips, dust, and diesel exhaust all at once. You can find everything from ripe fruits and vegetables to clothes and shoes at these vibrant markets.

8) The stars. Rural Malawi has no electricity. Standing in a village several miles from the nearest city means there is no artificial light. And this means the sky comes alive with galaxies and trillions of stars you could never see otherwise. The U.S. is in the Northwestern Hemisphere, and Malawi is in the Southeastern Hemisphere, so you will see magnificent, unfamiliar star formations. 

9) The wildlife. Visits to a Malawi game reserve can reveal diverse species of animals. Elephant, leopard, rhinoceros, hippopotamus, crocodile, zebra, cape buffalo, a large variety of antelope from the smaller bushbuck to the massive sable, warthog, baboons, and numerous smaller animals such as mongoose or porcupine. They even introduced a pride of lions from South Africa to a reserve this year.

10) The energy. The children in a village never slow down. At all times of day they can be seen running, laughing, jumping rope, playing football (boys) or netball (girls), dancing, or simply smiling. It never ceases to amaze me how much joy can be gleaned from life despite abject poverty and the harshest of living conditions.

11) The sunsets. With no large buildings to block your view, sunsets in rural Malawi can overwhelm your soul. It is delightful to watch the immense sky morph through its magical hues of yellow, gold, orange, red, and maroon before settling into its midnight blue and finally, darkness. It makes your heart feel light.

Thanks for sharing your passion with us, Steve! We're so grateful for your heart and are inspired by what has transpired in your life since clicking that link 10 years ago. We love partnering with Equitas and we cherish the opportunity to connect with such a special place on the other side of the world!

Do you have an interesting 11 list you'd like us to consider? We'd love to hear your idea! Tell us about it here.

Volunteer Friday #3

Volunteer Friday #3


Every other Friday we take a moment to introduce you to someone in our community who serves in one or more of Watershed's many volunteer areas: GreenHouse/Shed StudentsSunday TeamsCatapultBloc Leading, etc. The featured volunteer will then select someone he/she would like to see highlighted next.

This week, meet Mary!


Volunteer Area(s): Greenhouse (Evergreens & Redwoods), Catapult (Girls on the Run Coach at Byers)

Why did you choose to volunteer in your areas? 

I always feel more connected to a community when I'm actively participating in it. When I first started coming to Watershed, Greenhouse seemed like the perfect way to do that. Plus we have great kids, who are so much fun to teach! I became involved with Girls on the Run on a whim, after I received an email asking if anyone had any weekday afternoons open. Since becoming a coach 2 1/2 years ago, it has easily become my favorite part of the week. It also opened my eyes to a part of Charlotte that I was ignoring. Being thrown into this new environment has given me a whole new perspective on this city I call home.  

What has been one of your favorite moments as a volunteer? 

My favorite moment probably has been the relationships I've developed as a GOTR coach. I have a couple students who I've coached since 3rd grade, that are now in 5th. It's been a real privilege to get to know these girls and walk beside them as they grow up. I had no idea that I would feel so changed by this experience, and I'm so grateful for it.   

If you could use only one word to describe our Watershed community, what would it be?

Generous. I feel like the Watershed community is so generous with their time. I love meeting new people at Watershed and hearing about all the different ways they are either plugged in or giving back to our community. It's really refreshing to hear about all the different ways people are owning our church.  

Describe your perfect day in Charlotte.

My perfect day in Charlotte would be a sunny fall day, in the 70's, where I would walk my dogs to Freedom Park, meet up with friends to watch the Panthers win, then head to a couple breweries, eat dinner on Sir Ed's patio, and be home in bed with Netflix on by 9.  



November News From GreenHouse

November News From GreenHouse


Our GreenHouse kids ministry has several pieces of exciting news this month! Scroll through below to learn more about the next teaching series for our elementary schoolers, an awesome new addition to the GreenHouse webpage, and daily serving opportunities designed to help your little ones cultivate gratitude and compassion throughout the month!


In the same way that our adults follow a sermon series upstairs, our elementary school students are learning thematically downstairs as well! Last month our kids wrapped up the MADE series, and now they're moving on to a study called Poems, Parables, & Me. 

Stories. They Inform us. Inspire us. Change us. Teach us. Join us in GreenHouse (K-5th grade) for a new unit where we explore the stories of the Bible using the beautiful poetry of the Psalms and the metaphoric truths buried within Jesus' parables. Through the exploration of these stories our hope is that kids will grow in their awareness of God's story and the one they are co-creating with Him. Weaved into our experience together will be discovering new ways to pray and reflect as we build a deeper connection within our small groups. 

Sunday Mornings throughout November & January
December lessons will focus on Advent & Christmas
Service Times: 9:15AM & 11:00AM
Click Here for Location


We are so excited to announce that GreenHouse lessons plans are now available online for every classroom! Lesson plans for the upcoming Sunday should be posted by Friday each week, and older plans will be archived. 

Click the icons below to view lesson plans for each age group: Seedlings (6 weeks-24 months), Sprouts (24-36 months), Diggers (3-5 years), and Evergreens & Redwoods (K-5 students).


Follow GreenHouse on Facebook and Instagram for a daily service idea each day throughout the month of November! Use the #GiveThanksGreenHouse hashtag to capture your family's moments of serving and follow the journeys of other GreenHouse families as they cultivate gratitude and show love around our city! 

Learn more about GreenHouse's vision for our community's kids here.
Email Children's Pastor Becky Santoro for further information: 

The Donald and the D-Word

The Donald and the D-Word

By Ashley Sullivan

Over the weekend a video emerged depicting one of our Presidential candidates shamelessly dehumanizing a person who represents half of his constituents: women. This widely circulated video of Donald Trump and Billy Bush is obviously obnoxious and obscene, but what some people may not realize is that for many women it’s more than just an annoyance. For those who have experienced sexual abuse, harassment, exploitation, or trauma, it can be a psychological trigger for distress.

Concrete data on violence and harassment towards women is surprisingly difficult to nail down. The statistical consensus on incidence suggests that around 1 in 5 women have been victims of attempted or completed rape, and nearly 1 out of every 2 women have experienced sexual violence other than rape in their lifetimes. When it comes to harassment, a survey conducted last year found that as many as 1 in 3 women (ages 18-34) reported experiences of sexual harassment at work.

These numbers are already disturbing, but researchers agree that an enormous amount of assault and harassment cases likely go unreported, pushing the statistics into even more alarming territory. Why are such a startling number of women experiencing harassment and abuse? And what is stopping women from reporting these traumatic experiences and seeking justice for their mistreatment?

I can’t help but wonder if the answers to these questions have something to do with Trump’s apology for he and Bush’s lewd behavior. Because this is all just harmless “locker-room banter,” right? Isn’t it just another run-of-the-mill case of “boys will be boys”?

Nobody’s really getting hurt here, are they?

If viewing the video triggered an intense emotional response for you, I want you to know that it did for me too. I also want you to know that, sadly, my instinctive reaction to that intense response was to immediately question its validity.

Should I really be this upset? Am I blowing this out of proportion? Am I just being… dramatic?


One of the most devastating results of our culture’s proclivity to excuse or downplay the kind of misogynistic behavior displayed by Trump and Bush is that it often leaves women wondering whether the problem is truly rooted in the actions of their abusers… or if it is simply rooted in their own “overblown” emotional responses to the abuse. How many of the reasons cited for underreporting sexual violence and harassment could be healed if women truly believed that their voices would be taken seriously when they spoke up? How many instances of abuse would never occur in the first place if we challenged the notion that objectifying women is somehow acceptable (even in private, exclusively male conversations) and instead created a new cultural norm committed to honoring the Imago Dei in both women and in men?

Additionally, preserving the notion that “locker-room banter” is acceptable is not only irresponsible and dangerous for women; it’s insulting to our brothers. Do we really believe that men are somehow less free to embody expressions of gentleness, deference, and self-control? What sort of distorted and diluted version of masculinity offers up cheap escape hatches like “boys will be boys” when a woman’s Divinely-imprinted heart, mind, body, and soul are at the risk of violation? What twisted identity constructs are we normalizing and perpetuating by writing off certain behaviors as simply “expected functions” of the male persona?

Men, I know you’re better than this, and I personally refuse to hold you to a standard any lower than the one I know you are capable of rising to. Let this essay also stand as my personal refusal to hold myself back from what I am capable of as a woman: speaking loudly and unashamedly against something I recognize as wrong.

To my sisters who are suffering this week as a result of viewing the video: you are justified in your pain and in your anger. This video is not just a political annoyance; it is a trigger for trauma. And if you’re reeling from that, I want you to know that you aren’t alone. You have a right to fully feel your pain and to lament it.

A few months ago Cedric, my dear friend and co-worker here at Watershed, wrote a brilliant post entitled “It Isn’t Too Late to Ask.” I can’t think of a better response in a moment like this than the advice in that post.

Men, it isn’t too late to ask the women in your lives how they’re really feeling this week. It isn’t too late to sit quietly and offer wide-open, compassionate, non-judgmental, curious space for our voices to be heard.

Ladies, we can also give this tender gift to one another… and to our brothers. The negative effects of “locker-room banter” extend to men’s souls as well. Asking to hear each other’s stories might just be the most redemptive thing any of us could do.

All week long this verse from Genesis 50 has been reverberating in my heart: “Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now—life for many people.”

Nothing can fully erase the pain of past trauma, and I personally do not believe that God ordains abuse in anyone’s life. But if we view this video as a springboard for vulnerable conversation, if we are able to see it as an invitation from the Spirit to increase our compassion and love for one another, then I do believe it can be transformed into something good.

To explore this topic further, we recommend listening to Woman, a recent podcast by The Liturgists.

4 Reasons Why 'It's a Sin Issue, Not a Skin Issue' is a Dangerous Oversimplification

4 Reasons Why 'It's a Sin Issue, Not a Skin Issue' is a Dangerous Oversimplification

By Cedric Lundy, Pastor of Justice & Leadership

Benjamin Watson, NFL Tight End for the New Orleans Saints at the time, said it in the wake of the protests and riots in Ferguson. Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney said it when asked about the issues leading to football players taking a stance of protest during the playing of the National Anthem before games. I’ve seen many people echo the sentiment on social media.

“It’s not a skin issue it’s a sin issue.”

As a fellow Christian I must profess that this declaration of racism in America boiling down to a sin issue is a dangerous oversimplification. Before I get in to why, it would be useful to give a brief explanation of how sin has been widely understood or preached in America.

About 150 years ago the gospel was truncated into a message of turning from sin and going to heaven one day. Its key features were repentance and sin management. Over the last hundred years this version of the gospel eventually became obsessed with sexual purity. Noticeably absent was an ethic of breaking down the dividing wall of hostility and becoming one man in Christ (Ephesians 2.14-16).

Sin is a Symptom of Idolatry—The main failure of sin management, beyond creating legalists, is it only addresses the symptom, not the cause, of our individual and corporate obstacles to achieving harmony in life. To create an idol is to “make a good thing a God thing”. When we elevate our culture over and above another’s as superior, we are in fact suggesting that God approves of our culture over and above anyone else’s. It can become very easy to reject racial hatred while still believing your culture and its norms are somehow inherently better or more godly. The recent protest by pro football players during the National Anthem has exposed the idolatry of Christian Nationalism. Only idolatry would permit Christians to be more bothered by the perceived offense shown to the symbolism of a piece of woven cloth than the systemic dehumanization of others for any reason - race, gender, or otherwise.

Racism was used to Justify Colonialism— In 1452 Pope Nicholas V issued a Papal Bull statement on behalf of King Alfonso V of Portugal that said the following… “We grant you by these present documents, with our Apostolic Authority, full and free permission to invade, search out, capture, and subjugate the Saracens and pagans and any other unbelievers and enemies of Christ wherever they may be, as well as their kingdoms, duchies, counties, principalities, and other property [...] and to reduce their persons into perpetual servitude.” The history and legacy of racism in the United States is not simply a byproduct of individuals being marred by sin. Racism’s enduring legacy is European Colonialism, which used the authority of the Church to justify the annihilation and subjugation of other people groups who were indigenous to the lands the Church and the State sought to claim as divinely theirs (originally Portugal and Spain, but primarily England and France).

Denial of Implicit Racial Bias— One of the main obstacles preventing us from making progress in our fight against racism in America is our continued denial of implicit racial bias. We tend to make racism a binary issue and thus struggle to acknowledge or make room for anything besides racial supremacy and being “colorblind”. A lot of people fear that acknowledging they operate with subconscious biases based on race will put them in the category of being a racist. Therefore they work hard to deny the existence of implicit racial bias. So what’s the difference between implicit racial bias and racial supremacy/hatred? Racial bias says, "this is what ____ people are like, therefore I need to be more fearful and suspicious of them." Racial supremacy/hatred says, "_____ people are inferior, therefore I need to keep them in their place and exterminate them if they step out of line." We have no problem condemning the actions of a supremacist like Dylan Roof, but many struggle to condemn the biases that would lead a law enforcement officer, regardless of his/her color, to be more likely to use excessive and or lethal force with a black suspect than they would be with a white suspect.

Racism is a Corporate Issue, Not an Individual Issue—Years ago I led a group of students on a mission trip to urban Baltimore. I’ll never forget the responses of two students after a talk on racial inequality and injustice. One of my boys replied, “I don’t think like that.” He wanted to make sure everyone knew that he wasn’t a racist. Immediately after him one of my girls declared, “Oh my gosh! It totally makes sense now!” She talked about looks she noticed our group was getting when we were in a Wendy’s during our travel day. “I’ve never been looked at like that in my life. I couldn’t figure out why they looked at us like that. It totally makes sense now. They didn’t like seeing an all-white youth group being led by a black youth pastor.” I took that opportunity to point out to my kids, “Whether you think like that or not, you are affected by others who do whenever you all are with me.” Unfortunately, due the truncated gospel, we neglect addressing implicit racial bias and institutional racism beyond proselytizing, prayer and repentance, only to hold the vomit of racism and racial bias in our collective mouths. The racial divide in any form is only addressed from the pulpit when lamenting the explicitly racial carnage of supremacists (or condemning racial trauma expressing itself in destructive rioting.)

I recognize that most people who make this declaration of racism being “a sin issue, not a skin issue” have good intentions. They rightly infer simple legislation can’t establish racial harmony. However, it is dangerous for the church and its relevance in society to continue to infer racism will only be made better by personal sin management. We must address the deeper complex implications of racism being an issue of idolatry. Otherwise the church will continue in it’s legacy of being complicit in the persistence of the racial divide.


99th Percentile

99th Percentile

Catapult is Watershed's local justice initiative committed to building supportive and encouraging partnerships with nearby schools. 

The 2016-2017 school year has begun and tutoring is fully underway at both of Watershed's CMS partner schools, Walter G. Byers and Shamrock Gardens Elementary. We're convinced that the 30-45 minutes our tutors spend with students each week is a worthwhile investment... but don't just take our word for it! We invited Shamrock Gardens Principal Sarah Reeves back to the Watershed stage last month, and she had some encouraging things to share about the impact of Catapult tutors on her Shamrock scholars last year (video below). 

Principal Reeves highlighted one success story about an English as a Second Language (ESL) scholar. This particular student and his tutor struggled to connect initially due to a challenging language barrier, but with consistency and effort a special relationship was formed. By the end of the school year, that young scholar's reading level had surpassed the 99th percentile in the state, and this year he's been placed in an advanced academic class. His reading level grew four years in the short time he was paired with his Catapult tutor! Principal Reeves attributed part of his growth and success to having a caring adult who showed up each week to invest in his education. 

If you aren't already involved with Catapult, it isn't too late to play a part! Here are some ways you can join Watershed's efforts to support students and educators in our city's schools:

  • Tutoring: Spend 30-45 minutes each week tutoring an elementary-aged student and building a special friendship! No education experience required, schools provide the tutoring material. We’ll work with you to set up a day and time that fits your schedule. Click here to express interest. Byers and Shamrock
  • Mentoring: Help out with Girls on the Run or Right Moves for Youth. Click here to learn more about each program and express interest. Byers Only
  • Staff Support: Become a Staff Pal to an educator, or join an email list to receive information about helping out at staff appreciation events throughout the year. Click here to learn more and get involved. Byers Only

If you have further questions, email Cedric, Watershed's Pastor of Justice & Leadership:

Will You Inconvenience Yourself to Intervene?: Small Steps in Stopping Rape Culture

Will You Inconvenience Yourself to Intervene?: Small Steps in Stopping Rape Culture

I don’t think I truly recognized how potentially significant of an intervention I made in Sarah’s life until I read the unnamed victim of Brock Turner’s letter, and internally wrestled with how messed up it is that he is going to be home in time for Halloween after he serves his 3 months in the country jail after doing that to her. I had an idea but I don’t think I really truly understood.

It's Time

It's Time

It’s time... To step up. To be a part of the solution. To offer your greatest asset, yourself, and your most valuable commodity, your time.

It’s time... To give 60 of the 10,080 minutes in your week. Less than 1% of your week... to impact 100% of theirs.

It’s time... To let your excuses rest. To increase our presence. To experience the transformation that giving of self can catalyze.

It’s your time. It’s our time. It’s about time.

It’s time.

We’re excited to kick off our EIGHTH YEAR of Catapult, Watershed’s effort to support local schools through tutoring, mentoring, and staff appreciation! This year we’re continuing partnerships with two Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools: Walter G. Byers and Shamrock Gardens Elementary. Want to join this movement of people from our community? Here's how you can get involved:

Tutoring: Spend 30-45 minutes each week tutoring an elementary-aged student and building a special friendship! No education experience required, schools provide the tutoring material. We’ll work with you to set up a day and time that fits your schedule. Click here to express interest. Byers and Shamrock

Mentoring: Help out with Girls on the Run or Right Moves for Youth. Days and times TBD. Click here to learn more about each program and express interest. Byers Only

Staff Support: Become a Staff Pal to an educator, or join an email list to receive information about helping out at staff appreciation events throughout the year. Click here to learn more and get involved. Byers Only

Mother Teresa famously said, "Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you." In the wake of tension and injustice, people often wonder, "What can I possibly do?" Let's take Mother Teresa's words to heart. Let's show the next generation (and those who teach them) that we care, and let's make space for our own hearts to experience transformation in the process. 

There's no better time than now.

Join us?


India: A Generosity Opportunity

India: A Generosity Opportunity

In last Sunday's Gathering Matt took some time to share about Watershed's ten-year partnership with Pastor Thanglal Haokip from Guwahati, India. Thanglal was a boy from the orphanage where the O’Neil’s and the Hoferts lived in the late 90’s. He attended the seminary in Kota, Rajasthan, where Matt and Scott were adjunct staff and he served as their translator.

Thanglal and his wife, Angum, planted a church in 2006 in Guwahati called Saraighat Community Church. Saraighat (pronounced Sa-rye-got) is a community striving to embody God’s peace, love and mercy. This isn't easy given the oppositional religious climate in their region of India. People who identify as Muslim, Hindu, and even some Christians are often in turmoil with each other due to poverty and governmental power struggles between corrupt religious and political leaders. Saraighat continues to try exist in ways that build bridges into their community and broker compassion and hope in the wake of so much poverty and struggle. The name Saraighat is actually the name of a bridge in Guwati which connects several different parts of India together. So, in some sense, their name embodies their mission. Watershed has enjoyed providing a decade of support for the Hoakip's justice-oriented work in India and Matt and Scott continue to mentor Thanglal via Skype to this day. 

Recently Thanglal reached out to Matt and Scott with a special need: a reliable vehicle. The Haokips have relied on public transportation their entire existence in Guwahati. However, due to how difficult and sometimes dangerous it is to travel via the public transit system and due to how geographically dispersed the villages they work with are, having a vehicle to rely on would be revolutionary to their efforts. A vehicle would enable the Haokips to move about more organically, more freely, and in a way that is more secure and safe. 

It's not often that we have such tangible opportunities to show love to our global partners outside of our regular support! 

the total cost to purchase a reliable vehicle for the haokip family is $3,500

Already our community has generously given about $800 toward the vehicle! We would love to fully cover this cost by the end of the month, and we invite you to be a part of that effort. 

If you'd like to practice generosity by helping the Haokips obtain a vehicle, there are several ways you can do it:

  • By cash or check. Drop an envelope in our metal offering boxes on Sunday or mail to P.O. Box 12749 | Charlotte, NC 28220. Please be sure to note that the gift is specifically for India.
  • Online through our SecureGive System (click here). 

Thank you for supporting our dear friends as they seek to do meaningful work in a difficult part of the world!

The Haokip's prayer requests

  • On May 18th a fanatical Hindu party won the election in the Haokip's state. This group is against several minority groups, including Christians. The Hoakips and their community are always vulnerable to violence or discrimination. Please Pray for God's protection and God’s peace to materialize within a climate of anger and fear.
  • Please pray for the two house churches which are extensions of Saraighat’s community in remote parts of India. Because they are more isolated, they are more vulnerable to injustice and suffering. Please pray for their protection.
  • Thanglal will be preaching and teaching 15 times from the last week of June until July 20th in a variety of locations to both youth and young pastors.  Please pray for stamina, inspiration and awareness as he teaches.

Meet the Middle Schoolers Changing Education in Malawi

Meet the Middle Schoolers Changing Education in Malawi

Meet Social Good CLT

Social Good CLT is a brand new media platform created with an exclusive purpose: to share stories of good in our city. By bringing untold stories to light, Social Good CLT hopes to inspire others to do good as well.

Social Good CLT has collected some of the Queen City's most talented creatives: writers, photographers, graphic designers, social media experts and storytellers. These contributors combine their forces twice a week to share stories of good in the QC. You can find the stories on Social Good CLT’s Facebook and Instagram pages or read full features on the Social Good CLT blog

Last week Social Good CLT launched with a story our community has already been inspired by! Written by Watershed Bloc Leader Holly Martin, this story features the Brew Tang Clan, a student-led coffee shop that Shed Students Pastor Jonathan George started at Piedmont Middle School. All of the funds the coffee shop takes in go straight to the Equitas Village Schoolhouse Project in Malawi. Equitas is one of Watershed’s global partners

Thanks, Social Good CLT, for featuring a few Charlotte change makers Watershed is especially proud of!

Meet the Middle Schoolers Changing Education in Malawi

Written by Holly Martin, Photos by Drew White

Since Jonathan George and his crew, the Brew Tang Clan, started fundraising two years ago with #Coffee4Ed, they’ve raised over $10,000. They’ve got T-shirts and a mission. This year, they got their own space.

All proceeds of their student-run coffee shop at Piedmont Middle School are donated to Equitas, a Charlotte-based nonprofit dedicated to providing education in Malawi.

The group has garnered donations from local roasters Enderly Coffee, Parliament, and Counter Culture, along with pastries from Sunflour Bakery and filtered water from Diamond Springs. A variety of companies have donated equipment, and the project has begun to receive attention of local media outlets like Wilson’s World.

In addition to #Coffee4Ed, the group completes #PiedmontWalk4Ed, a five-mile fundraiser walk from Park Road Shopping Center to their school in Plaza Midwood, raising awareness for how far children in rural Malawi walk to school each day.

Charlottean Steve Cook, a human rights activist, photographer and filmmaker, founded Equitas in 2007. Shortly after, he and George became friends.

As a result of this friendship, George and his wife Kayla went to Malawi to direct a youth sports program in 2009-2010. When they returned, they knew they wanted to continue to help.

George decided to combine his love for teaching, coffee, and social enterprise to help educate students and fundraise to break the cycle of poverty in Malawi. Modeling social enterprise is the objective of #Coffee4Ed. Rather than focusing inward, students are inspired to focus on what benefits others.

The crew has plans to start serving pop-ups at local events and markets.

“My main thing to pass on to them is finding something they’re passionate about to make the world better,” he says. “If it’s coffee, great. If it’s something else, great. My challenge is that they’ll do what they love to do and use that to make social change.”

Equitas is raising $300,000 to build a school in Malawi so students will have accessible education in their own village. Without it, George says, “They’ll miss half a year during the rainy season. They miss kindergarten or they’re behind. They end up becoming subsistence farmers.”

Yamilet, an eighth-grade student, is a Brew Tang Clan member.

“My favorite part is seeing the changes happen in Malawi,” she says, adding, “I love the bragging rights. I can make a really good cup of coffee! You should come try it!”

If you know people, businesses, programs or nonprofits that are helping to make a difference in our city, nominate them to be featured on Social Good CLT here. And don’t forget to follow Social Good CLT on Facebook and on Instagram if you’re interested in learning more about the good happening in our city!