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The Faith Culture of Effingham County
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It seems that every time I leave Effingham County I am struck by the same thing.

I may be out of town at a conference or even on vacation, yet the same thing hits me.

Effingham County truly does have a “culture” all its own. And that culture reminds me of what I have always loved about small communities, particularly those out “in the country,” so to speak.

A good part of that culture - if not the major part - is the importance of faith and church in the life of community members. I often take for granted that people I meet will be seeking God in their own way; at least that they are involved with some faith.

Yet, when I leave Effingham I find that I cannot take that for granted at all - particularly if I leave the south.

Maybe it’s just me, and maybe I am simply sensitive to it, but when I mention church to people I meet traveling I am often met with silence. I feel as if I have brought up a taboo subject, or at least one that is far too personal to discuss. There is an unease I feel there that I do not find in the county. The look says, “That is none of your business. What are you, some kind of religious wacko?”

That is because faith and church have been and remain today part of the culture in Effingham. And that is a good thing, a very good thing.

Don’t get me wrong. It is not as if all the people I meet outside Effingham do not have faith or go to church. What I am saying is that the subject is not a comfortable one for many people. And that is likely because it is not necessariy part of the culture where they live; it is not part of polite dinner conversation. And because it is not part of their local culture, the topics of faith a church get stuffed into a bucket labeled “personal stuff we don’t talk about outside the family.”

To me, this county truly is special in this regard.

We can bring children up here knowing that the lion’s share of children and teachers they will meet will not only respect their faith and church involvement, but also embrace it. And for the personal growth and development of children, to have their involvement in faith also embraced by others who are their role models and teachers helps them see and understand God in all areas of their life.

I will never forget waiting for my daughter at gymnastics practice at Deeno’s. This was when it was up by Bill’s in Springfield, so it was a while ago. The mother of a new girl who had just moved from elsewhere was waiting with me.

I asked her how she liked living here. She replied, and I am not making this up, “We like it, but everyone is so into church here!”

I smiled. I did not want to embarrass her and tell her about my church involvement. But I did say that her daughter might like to meet other children her age at a local church. (She didn’t really want to talk about it after that.)

Yet, I have thought of her over the years. My prayer for her would be that she would get involved in a local church, find out who God is, and develop a relationship with Him. There is no better place to do that than right here.

And that little girl?

I assume by now she is in college somewhere. I pray that she may feel a draw back here, to the place where - just maybe (if she did embrace the faith culture here)- she feels at home and confortable with a community of believers, where everyone is “so into church.”

Yes, it seems that every time I leave Effingham County I am struck by the same thing. Our children will one day be struck by that as well.

In the meantime, all we can do is thank God for the faith culture here and the community leaders who maintain it.