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
retrospect, the conflict was, for the most part, inevitable. Our
spirituality had turned a corner; we seemed to be asking different
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
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.
video clips only, click here
If you have any responses, we'd like to hear from you!
I - An Uncertain Birth: The Spirit Casts Us into Chaos
– 1994) video
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
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 internal
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…
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
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…
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.