Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition

Program for Blessing of the Mountain

Reverend Holmes' Reflections / Sermon

Bob Kincaid's Essay on April 5 Vigil Disruption

About Ansted Area and Movement to Stop Mountaintop Removal There

Place Stories

Fayette County Commission Resolution Against Ansted Permit
 

 

 

Blessing of the Mountain

April 5 , 2008
Photos by Vivian Stockman

Prayer Vigil Part of Growing Faith Community Opposition to Mountaintop Removal

Early Saturday, April 5, dozens of mountaintop removal opponents converged on Gauley Mountain for Blessing of the Mountain II, intending to pray near a mountaintop removal operation above the Fayette County community of Ansted. But, a similar number of employees of CONSOL coal company were already there, blocking access to the prayer site.

So Reverends Roy Crist and Stan Holmes set up a music stand amongst the strip mine workers vehicles. The mountaintop removal opponents stood amongst the coal workers and services began. 

There are no enemies here, Crist said. He made an effort to shake the hand of every one of the mountaintop removal workers present.

The mountaintop removal opponents read prayers, sang hymns and spoke against mountaintop removal. At one point, a CONSOL worker stepped into the midst of the service and it looked as if the situation could turn volatile. But the crowd began singing Amazing Grace, easing the tension between the two groups.

After the services concluded, many from both sides stood and talked calmly with one another about the need for change.

We let our presence be known to the public. Even though we had opposition, everything came out in a positive manner, said Ansted Historical Preservation Council member Karen Huffman. 

Allen Johnson, a founder of Christians for the Mountains, said the event, dissolved some of the polarization between the community and the strip mine workers.

The Ansted Historical Preservation Council planned the vigil. Fliers for the event said people were invited to join in prayer, to seek Divine intervention and wisdom to contradict the devastation created by mountaintop removal mining practices.

The council has been organizing in Ansted and surrounding tourism-dependent communities, attempting to stop a 286-acre Powellton Coal mountaintop removal operation which would be visible from the New River Gorge Bridge and would affect the Gauley River National Recreation Area. The permit boundary allows mining right up to the boundary of Hawks Nest State Park.

Residents worry the mining might unleash flash flooding if old abandoned mines and tunnels in the area are breached. They also worry that blasting will send clouds of silica laden dust into the air. 

A recent WVU study indicates that people living near coal mining operations suffer higher incidences of certain diseases and increased mortality rates.

It was good to see both sides of the issue, and  the vigil drew attention to the question of what is West Virginia going to do, said Peter Bosch, with the Christian student group Restoring Eden.

What are you going to do in a few years down the road when your job is gone? Ansted community leader Cary Huffman asked a group of coal workers.  They agreed there needs to be more conversation between the workers and community members. They exchanged names, handed out phone numbers, shook hands and left.

Below are photos from the event.
 

Blessing of the Mountain attendees arrived on Fire Tower (Gauley) Mountain to find the way to the blessing site blocked by CONSOL employees and their trucks.
Blessing of the Mountain attendees arrived on Fire Tower (Gauley) Mountain to find the way to the blessing site blocked by CONSOL employees and their trucks.

Blessing of the Mountain organizers carry the music stand through the gauntlet of blue-shirted CONSOL employees.
Blessing of the Mountain organizers carry the music stand through the gauntlet of blue-shirted CONSOL employees.

Wait a minute, isn't this a public road?  What's to hide? Don't want the public seeing mountaintop removal?
Wait a minute, isn't this a public road? What's to hide? Don't want the public seeing mountaintop removal?

That's ok, we'll just have the service right here.
That's ok, we'll just have the service right here.

The service included call and response, with a declaration for all to try harder in protecting God's Creation.
The service included call and response, with a declaration for all to try harder in protecting God's Creation.

This sermon didn't quite make it to the mount --not taht all the mount is still there...
This sermon didn't quite make it to the mount --not taht all the mount is still there...

A potentially volatile moment is calmed as the worshipers spontaneously begin singing Amazing Grace.
A potentially volatile moment is calmed as the worshipers spontaneously begin singing Amazing Grace.

Hymns help keep things calm.
Hymns help keep things calm.

Rev. Jim Lewis is always helpful in keeping the peace.
Rev. Jim Lewis is always helpful in keeping the peace.

 

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