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Last Updated: Wednesday, 5 July 2006, 11:04 GMT 12:04 UK
US singer buys childhood church
Willie Nelson
Nelson was once called "the greatest" by President Jimmy Carter
Country star Willie Nelson has bought a church in the small town in Texas where he played music and sang as a boy.

The methodist church in Abbott closed in May due to poor attendances, and the congregation was merged with another from a neighbouring parish.

A special service marked the reopening, with Nelson performing hymns with his sister and guests including guitarist and singer-songwriter Leon Russell.

One of Nelson's childhood friends is to organise monthly services from now on.

'Forever and ever'

"Bobbie and I have been going to this church since we were born," Nelson told those in attendance.

"Now you're all members of the Abbott Methodist Church, and you will be, forever and ever."

He also greeted other parishoners and acquaintances after the service.

"This has been quite an experience, all these people," he said. "We went to school together, played ball together, dated together."

The population of Abbott - which is 65 miles (104km) south of Dallas - is approximately 300 at present.

Church records show the congregation totalled 600 in 1886.

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