Blessing of the Mountain
April 5 , 2008
Photos by Vivian Stockman
Prayer Vigil Part of Growing Faith Community Opposition to
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
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
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
recent WVU study indicates that people living near coal mining
operations suffer higher incidences of certain diseases and increased
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
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 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?
|That's ok, we'll just have the service right
|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...
|A potentially volatile moment is calmed as the
worshipers spontaneously begin singing Amazing Grace.
|Hymns help keep things calm.
|Rev. Jim Lewis is always helpful in keeping the