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Nacogdoches church welcomes young activists

Tar Sands Blockade

The grassroots coalition Tar Sands Blockade took its peaceful protest of the Keystone XL pipeline to Houston this week to occupy the lobby of a building where TransCanada has offices. Dozens of protesters have used civil disobedience tactics to try to slow down construction of the pipeline through East Texas. The activists, who come from all over the country, have also found their way into church pews in Nacogdoches.

Rev. Kyle Childress of Austin Heights Baptist Church wrote about this in the new issue of Christian Century magazine. He says his church’s young adult ministry has taken off.

"Most of the time, church conversations are about things like, When are we going to repair the front door of the church? And, Who is going to be the children's Sunday school teacher?" Childress said. "Now, I've got these questions where the most basic, profound questions of the faith are being asked by young people about God and the environment."

Typically, Austin Heights draws about 75 churchgoers on Sunday. Childress said his church is now drawing an additional 25 people. They’re college-educated twentysomethings, and he said they’ve come to Nacogdoches for a sole purpose: to protest the pipeline.

"These kids, these young people, are selling everything they have," Childress said. "I figure, Jesus could work with people like this."

Childress said some Austin Heights members have opened up their homes to the activists to do their laundry and take showers. He said his congregation has not taken a formal stance on the Keystone XL through a vote, but the vast majority oppose it and are aware the pipeline path runs near the church. Childress said church discussions have become more vigorous since the activists started attending Sunday services.