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Issue 01 – Easter 2020

Brass Rubbings

Material Witness

On a Hoosier Parish


A Jesuit priest I know who spent some time in Indiana describes it as one of the most balkanized places he has visited. Distances of a few dozen miles hide the sorts of cultural gulfs you write poems about. This is especially true in matters of religion. There are Catholic strongholds in southern Indiana. Jasper, in Dubois County, is famous for its German Catholic roots. Evansville and Terre Haute also have strong Catholic communities. Bedford, in Lawrence County, however, is not one of those places. 

At one point, Bedford was a Baptist town. There used to be vibrant mainline congregations—Presbyterians, Methodists. They still exist, but one has the sense that a single bad flu season would just about do them in. Even the Baptists aren’t what they once were. There was a nasty split in the First Baptist Church about twenty years ago, though the breakaway group came back after their congregation saw the demographic writing on the financial wall. Then there is the familiar social dimension of churchgoing. This or that church will get popular for whatever reason. And some of those congregations even believe specific things. When I was a kid, it was the First Assembly of God. Today I think it’s the First Church of God. Don’t ask me what the difference is.

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About the author

P. J. Smith