CommunityMy FDLSeminal

Coal River Revived Us

We called the evening “Coal River Revival” and it was to be the last show of our season. Why? We don’t spend August on a white sand beach. We wanted to experience a sum up of our year of Mountaintop Removal (MTR) resistance, and do this with a congregation that has been pushing back at the exploding mountains for decades.

So for Saturday’s worship – Charleston W. Va. was our destination. It defined how far we’ve come in our intentional community this year, in our choices, our impact – and our haunted exhaustion. The history-making crime of MTR has changed our world all the way from the boroughs of New York, where we consume the power that the martyred mountains provide. Now, a couple days later – Charleston rings in us like the memory of a mesmerizing opera.

We especially remember the interactive mountain rituals. The one that changed the course of the evening was the calling out of the 500 names of the missing mountains. That when we raised the lights on the hundreds of Appalachians in the room, staring at that list of names in their hands and recognizing the folks next them who were also shouting mountains – oh that’s our neighbors on another side of the same mountain! The cry of the mountain names rose in the room like a fast climb with friends.

Calling out the Names of Missing Mountains

Coming from 600 miles away we could play host to a gathering of lots of mountain activists who might not mix much. Everyone from 90 year old West Virginian eco-legend Ken Hechler to Climate Ground Zero to Rainforest Action Network to the Love Art Lab to Appalachia Watch to Pennies of Promise (the project to save Marsh Fork Elementary School from a 3 million gallon lake of coal waste). All these citizens of different styles and strategies clapped their hands with us, and with one another. At the end of two hours, they gave us a wonderful ovation, and we gave them one back from the stage. A unifying was in the works that should grow all the way to the big march on Washington in two months, on Sept 25-27, “Appalachia Rising.”

The next morning, we drove up Coal River Valley, through the dead and dying coal towns, with commentary from Larry Gibson, the “Keeper of the Mountain,” and our friend Bo Webb. We walked up into the horrific dull white stone space where Kayford Mountain had lived for millions of years. Then we sang and prayed to that mountain, and made our way out of that hell, back to our long ride home.

Now writing thank you notes all day. It seems the “Coal River Revival” showed us how far we have to go. We’ve got to sing and preach back in New York! Banks that finance MTR – hey UBS! – you need to get down on your knees and pray! Exploding mountains for the coal? Oh, you bankers need to come to church in your lobbies! Appalachia-lujah!

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Rev. Billy Talen

Rev. Billy Talen

Spiritual Leader of the Church of Life After Shopping. We find a kind of home-made spirituality in backing away from products, turning away from brands, malls, traffic, centralized authority. Turn toward local compassionate economies... Amen!