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The Spirit in Watershed: The First Ten Years


OUR WATERSHED COMMUNITY was born in early 1992 out of the watershed-like demise of a small inner city church in Winnipeg named Cornerstone Christian Fellowship.

Although a mission church of the Mennonite Brethren Conference of Manitoba, Cornerstone's core group had diverged theologically, ethically and culturally from its parent tradition. The church's dissolution was caused, at least explicitly, by a decision of "authorities" to suspend the duties of the pastor over his marital divorce and new relationship.
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In retrospect, the conflict was, for the most part, inevitable. Our spirituality had turned a corner; we seemed to be asking different questions.
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In retrospect, the conflict was, for the most part, inevitable. Our spirituality had turned a corner; we seemed to be asking different questions. What are our experiences of the Spirit? How can our understanding of faith be intellectually and existentially credible? Can our expressions of faith reflect our lived experience? What can the world's wisdom teach us?

Arthur Paul Patterson, the former pastor of Cornerstone, provided the spiritual leadership for this new, unaffiliated group which had been "cast into chaos." Freed from external expectations and structures, we began an odyssey of sorts, searching for a vision, a vocation, a "place" to call home.

Now, on the occasion of our tenth anniversary, we decided to tell the story to ourselves, and to anybody who wishes to overhear.

Thus, the following transcript, and associated video clips, are taken from a 90-minute documentary in four acts entitled The Spirit in Watershed: The First Ten Years created for our retreat weekend in September 2002 at Falcon Trails Resort in Manitoba's Whiteshell Provincial Park.

arrowFor video clips only, click here

If you have any responses, we'd like to hear from you!

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Act I - An Uncertain Birth: The Spirit Casts Us into Chaos (1991 – 1994) arrowvideo clip

Standing on Crack imageFairy tales do not deny the existence of sorrow and failure. They deny – in the face of much evidence if you will – universal defeat, giving a fleeting glimpse of Joy, Joy beyond the walls of the world, poignant as grief.
• J.R.R. Tolkien

The Death of Cornerstone

In a time not too very long ago, a dark storm rose over our land, lightning struck, thunder roared, the earth shook...

and our former home, Cornerstone…

fell into oblivion.

Besieged by picture of lightninginternal strife and external conflict, this end, this death, caused great sorrow and confusion. In very uncertain times, both personal and collective, the Spirit cast us into chaos…

the whirlwind!

We had lingered too long in a world that didn’t fit the character
of our deeper selves….

and therefore we had been thrust out of the belly of the whale.

For (Arthur) Paul, this earthquake experience was anticipated in a dream:

PAUL: I dreamt that I experienced an earthquake where everything was falling and being cracked open, and torn apart. There were all these images of water, and waves, and disintegration and dissolution, and even an interesting image of money and security where while I was running from the earthquake, I ran into a bank and in the bank … the floor actually started going in a vertical way and I had to run up the floor and I was hanging on trying to move up the floor as the pillars of the bank came falling down. So all the securities … relationally, money wise, job wise, family wise - everything was torn apart in the midst of this catastrophe. But beyond that it was the exact earthquake that shook me out of the stability of a situation that wasn’t good for me.

It also shook faith. It wasn’t as if I walked through this thing without any shattering of, or at least any bumping into, my spirituality because the spirituality said (inside myself I was thinking) that if I continued in the way that I felt I was being led it would work out, but I expected it to work out easier and better than it did. It worked out a lot harder than I ever anticipated.

Others experienced the chaos in various ways…

BEV: I think when things start happening to you and you cooperate with it, you have no idea really what it’s about until you reflect on it.

PAUL: There was an assurance that things would work out but it was more based on staying as attuned as I could to the guidance of God, and trying to hear God in the midst of ambiguous situations.

CAL: It was exilic. The early Israelites talked about the Syrians or the Babylonians coming along and dragging them off to some other land. It wasn’t like we were dragged off, but we were taken out of what was familiar and we ended up in a different place, a different land. I was pretty disappointed with God.

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Video #1: The Death of Cornerstone
(Click on image to start download)

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Download Quicktime 6 to view video clips

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