Posted by: rachelbr86 | April 12, 2011

Lenten Series: “Valley of the Shadows”

Jesus tells us in Matthew 18:19-20, “Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them”.

The parables told around this passage in Matthew remind us of the importance of community. God seeks for us to be in community with each other.  When people pray for each other and with each other, the corporate nature of our prayer is more than our individual prayer combined.  There is special relationship we have with each other when we join together in community for prayer or praise, and a special communion with God which draws Christ close to us in that moment. Through one another we might feel Gods presence.

I invite you to read the story of prayer shared by Sharman Champman Crane who lives in Eastern Kentucky where mountaintop removal is the everyday reality.  As you read imagine you are with her in the worship service where she first shared her story.

Remember even in Kentucky where Mountains are disappearing, people are getting sick, and earth is being harmed; the community of Christ continues to gather. As we gather God is among us, and is listening to our prayers.

The Agony of Gaia: Photo of a sculpture by Jeff Chapman-Crane

Week Starting with the Fourth Sunday in Lent, April 3, 2011.

The Valley of the Shadow: Loving Neighbors and Mountain Top Removal

Lectionary Scriptures: 1 Samuel 16:1-13, Psalm 23, Ephesians 5:8-14, John 9:1-4. Reflection: Psalm 121 and 23

“I lift up my eyes to the hills, from whence does my help come?” So often I reflect on this verse for I live at the feet of Pine and Black Mountains in the valley of Eolia (Cherokee for “valley of the winds or spirits). The mountains and sanctuaries like Bad Branch Falls have often lifted my spirits – working in the midst of the day-to-day struggles of poverty and oppression for 27 years now.

LORD HEAR MY PRAYER. Today it is a valley of shadows – the shadows of cancer, auto-immune diseases, breathing disorders, giant machinery, lost water sources, homes shaken daily – foundations cracked, drug abuse, unemployment, mountains blown apart, depression, and communities destroyed. The shadows are shifting – growing – the silhouette of Black Mountain is forever changed by the coal extraction blasting of mile after mile of mountaintops. One can no longer lie beside still waters to restore their soul as 2,000 miles of streams are buried for eternity. And as the landscape is over shadowed, so are communities. Communities over-shadowed by loss of jobs, over-shadowed by loss of health and life; loss of human dignity and security; shadows of fear. And the state overshadowed by a deficit budget due to subsidizing the coal industry.

LORD HEAR MY PRAYER. Where mountaintop removal exists – all of us collectively – in communion are not loving our neighbors. We flip our power switches without realizing we are literally blowing up mountains, burying streams, and creating divisions in communities. And the shadows grow – because the water that does leave our county is already impacted by loss of quantity and quality.

LORD HEAR MY PRAYER. A few years ago, a coal company claimed they owned this stream they wanted to bury. As required, they posted notice in the local paper of intention to create a valley fill (burying a stream with bull-dozed trees and blown up mountain parts known as “overburden”). The notice said the stream was un-named and gave the quadrants. Locally, we know it as Rocky Branch and it begins up above Sam & Evelyn’s home. As the permit was going to bury land that belonged to three families – we as neighbors and members of a social justice organization asked the coal company to move the “overburden” 2,000 feet to land that the company owned and had already devastated. Initially they refused, saying it would cost them 5 cents more on the ton.

LORD HEAR MY PRAYER. Yes, we stopped the valley fill and protected our neighbors’ land, but at great cost. It has put neighbor against neighbor. The company quit giving donations to a local outreach organization. One neighbor on a fixed income and disability leases their land from the coal company. Their lease says that anything said against the company, means their land will be taken. In their illness we can’t visit them because our car would be recognized by the mining employees on their way to work. Standing with neighbors means losing one’s land.

LORD HEAR MY PRAYER. Seeing “friends of coal” license plates, bank tellers wearing “coal mining is our future” t-shirts, “save a coal miner’s job, kill a tree hugger” bumper stickers are really messages/shadows of hate and fear. Our governor recently referred to water protection activists as an “unwarranted burden.”

LORD HEAR MY PRAYER. So how do we show love for our neighbor? Do we help our neighbors whose property is in danger of being stolen and buried? Do we visit our neighbors who are ill? Do we try to shut down the mines – costing people the few jobs that are available? Do we love our neighbors downstream from us by diminishing and polluting their water? How DO we love each other? How do we love our governor?

LORD HEAR MY PRAYER. The hope, I believe, in the midst of all these shadows and dark secrets, is in trusting this journey of faith. I am unable to see the future, but as in the story of Jonah, the Ninevites responded, so I pray that today all of God’s children will respond – the neighbors here, the miners, the companies, those that throw the light switches and push the buttons, those that live downstream – that we collectively and in communion will repent of our addiction to fossil fuel energies – that neighbor will embrace neighbor with God’s love in action. LORD HEAR OUR PRAYERS.

By: Sharman Champman Crane lives in eastern Kentucky where mountaintop removal is the everyday reality


This blog post is part of our Lenten Blog Series, based on our newest Earth Day Sunday education and worship resource on community called Where Two or More Are Gathered: Eco-Justice as Community.  Download the Earth Day resource here.

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  1. I can really feel the frustration in your writing. At least you are doing something. I get so immobilized by these questions I don’t do anything. I keep waiting to find out what to do, but does anyone else really know? I insist on recycling, which is next to nothing we are so wasteful in this country, and my husband and step-sons won’t get involved because they want to play and it doesn’t make enough money!!! i don’t care if it makes any money. There could be jobs in less destructive fields in the area of energy production. Is solar or wind energy an alternative in Kenyucky?

    • Hi Ruth, Thanks for your comment. Even a small action helps, and your recycling makes a difference. If you are in Kentucky, you may want to check out Interfaith Power and Light to learn more about sustainable energy options in your state.

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