BRACK: Looking at diversity another way here – along church lines

St. Monica’s Catholic Church in Duluth.By Elliott Brack, editor and publisher  |  It’s not everyday that you see something that just makes your heart feel good. Such sightings are usually not expected, and jump out at you.

Most of our Sundays are composed of reading newspapers, and being mighty lazy. But the other day I was to attend a funeral, and was on the road about 2 p.m.  As I drove down Beaver Ruin Road past St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, I saw the parking lot of the church most crowded with cars. It looked like another car could not fit in.

That’s where this thought hit me: when we talk about the diversity that we have in Gwinnett, we seldom put it in terms of religion.  Oh, we know that the white population of the county is now a minority, and that there are about 25 percent black, 20 percent Hispanic and 10 per cent Asian residents of Gwinnett, plus a wide segment of other ethnics. But we seldom think of it in terms of religion.

It thrilled me to see that St. Patrick’s church was overflowing with worshipers. Then I thought of the many Roman Catholic congregations in Gwinnett, and how just about all of them have overflow crowds—-and at multiple services.

We forget that these diverse people bring their religion with them, and those of the Catholic faith dutifully worship in their churches—-to a higher degree than do Protestants. They worship overwhelmingly more than perhaps half the rest of the population.

How extensive is this? We started counting, and found on the internet that there are 11 Catholic churches in the county.  But we looked deeper, and found that these churches had 58 different times for masses on the weekend..  And masses were also in Spanish, Korean, Vietnamese,  Chinese and Polish languages. Talk about diversity within itself!

(All this did not include the Prince of Peace Catholic Church, once located in Buford, but now in Flowery Branch, with six masses on the weekend.)   (See adjacent Table).

Now had these churches been formed in the way most  Protestant churches were developed, that would mean 58 congregations in 58 different locations, be they Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran or Episcopal.  But the Catholics recognize that a congregation can meet at a different times and use one church building. So they efficiently gather at time of their church on the weekends, and dutifully attend church in droves.

That’s good.

By the way, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints also recognizes the efficiency of having more than one congregation meeting in a building. Each of their different-timed congregations are called “stakes.”

We await the 2020 census to tell us just exactly how many Catholics are in Gwinnett. We know from the 2010 census that Catholics make up the second largest group of worshipers in Gwinnett, only outnumbered by Baptists. The speed of the development of the Catholic community could make it the largest denomination in 2020.

We also have noticed that more and more Protestant congregations are having a difficult time growing their churches. They are finding the modern world more difficult to reach people, and many congregations are losing people.  Not so the Catholic: they have instilled into members around the world, and especially those immigrating here, the need to make sure that they attend church. Would that all faiths had that same devotion to their faith!

So, overall, this idea of diversity of people brings positives, including the good attendance at church by many of those new to Gwinnett, who dutifully practice their religion in their new home.  Hurrah!  We all should emulate them!

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