Over 300 people gathered in a cornfield chapel on Sunday, July 9.
The chapel, a bare bone structure, rose out of a clear plot in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. There are no walls; its borders are marked by tall rows of growing corn. Any breeze that blew over the rows must have been greet the temperatures had been hovering around the 80 s pretty much all week.
This was the scene as the Adorers of the Blood of Christ, a Catholic order of nuns, dedicated their new open-air chapel.
But this open-air chapel isn’t just for prayers. It’s a protest.
It’s built directly in the path of an incoming natural gas pipeline.
The Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline will be an underground extension of the Transco pipeline and will cut across 183 miles of Pennsylvania including immediately through the nun’s cornfield.
A federal committee gave Williams Partner, the company building the pipeline, permission to use eminent domain to claim the land, pending a July 17 hearing.
In response, the nuns teamed up with a local grassroots group called Lancaster Against Pipelines to organize and construct the chapel in protest.
“They’re very fine people, ” Sister Sara Dwyer says.
The result is that, if Williams Partners truly wants the land, they’re going to need to tear down the pews and arbor first.
“It’s not just about this pipeline, ” tells Dwyer. “It’s about describing awareness to what fossil fuel usage has done to the poor, to communities, and to the planet.”
“We see this as a moral, religious, and spiritual stand, ” Dwyer says.
This isn’t the first time eminent domain has been used for pipelines.
The permission has been used on the Bakken and Dakota Access pipeline before. It might seem a little weird most of the time “youre thinking about” eminent domain( if you think about it at all) as something public, like a road or a bridge. A privately owned pipeline using it feels weird.
And those who believes this way are not alone. Backlash has led to proposed laws and litigation in multiple countries.
Proponents of the pipeline hold that, once completed, itll assistance gasoline more than 7 million homes and it will create jobs.
It’s not clear whether the nuns’ efforts will have an effect, but you’ve got to hand it to them it’s an audacious move.
In constructing their new chapel, these nuns have constructed their message crystal clear: If the pipeline really does want this land, they’re going to have to fight for it.
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