I’ve been in Peachtree City, GA for the past two-and-a-half weeks for the holidays and I have found that being Catholic in an average sized Georgia town is very different than being Catholic in the cities of the North-East. For one, Catholics are a minority in Georgia where most people are Protestant or Evangelical and this doesn’t make being Catholic easy in a town that is primarily Evangelical and Protestant. To give you an idea of the Catholic ratio in town compared to other religious denominations: about 66% of the population is religious in a town of 34,000 plus people with Catholics at 9.94% (about the same as the county ratio for Catholics at 9.8%). The only other religious minorities in town are Episcopalians (0.68%), LDS (1.29%), Pentecostal (0.76%), Lutheran (1.72%), Presbyterian (2.30%), Jewish (0.26%), and Muslim (0.28%). While Catholics, in terms of denominational percentage is in the upper echelons, are compared to Protestants, Orthodox Christian, and Catholic, Catholics are a decided minority with Orthodox Christians being nonexistent. So, this is how the Protestant and Catholic ratio compares: total religious population is 66%, Protestant 48.76%, Catholic 9.94%. Of the 48.76% that are Protestant, 31.48% are Baptist while another 11.82% are Methodist. So being Catholic in a majority Protestant town can be frustrating but rewarding at the same time (especially when you consider some of the Baptist stances towards Catholicism).
With Catholicism being a minority in Peachtree City there is only one Catholic church in town that serves the local Catholic community. Holy Trinity Catholic Church is where the local Catholic community worships and, I have to say, it is an amazing place to go to church. For one, everyone goes to Holy Trinity for Mass, the church even draws on those Catholics who live in the neighboring towns of Fayetteville and Newnan. Also, everyone seems to know each other and it is impossible to walk in for Mass without seeing a friend or person you recognize. This being in the South, whole families show up for church, sometimes several generations. And Fr. Murphy is just wonderful. Father can always be found before Mass talking to a congregant, talking to a child about school, their week, or helping with a puzzle. And I have to mention that Fr. Murphy is Irish with the most wonderful Irish accent that makes every sermon entertaining. Overall, Holy Trinity has an amazing congregation that is welcoming and friendly.
I have to admit that when I first walked into Holy Trinity just over two weeks ago I was stunned at how different Catholic worship was at Holy Trinity than in the various Catholic churches I had been to DC. Firstly, most churches in DC offer two to three services per Sunday while Holy Trinity offers six services on Sunday and the standard Saturday night service. For each Sunday service at Holy Trinity there are about 100 people in attendance with a packed church for the later morning services and the Sunday afternoon service. If you show up late for the Sunday afternoon service, good luck finding a seat… You might be standing for Mass. Instead of a choir Holy Trinity has the oh so Southern praise band that sings traditional Catholic hymns. You would have to look high and low to find a praise band in a DC Catholic church, you are more likely to find a choir and pipe organ. I also noticed that dress for Mass is more casual at Holy Trinity than in DC but I suspect that has more to do with urban vs. suburban/rural life styles. I have noticed this at other Catholic churches in neighboring towns that cater to both rural and suburban communities. With that said there is always a person or a family that shows up to Mass wearing Wrangler jeans, belt buckle, cowboy boots and hat with a rosary in hand. Some people would frown at this kind of clothing being worn to Mass but the reality is that work on a farm never stops. Going back to Mass at Holy Trinity, I also noticed that Missals are provided at the church, not that this is uncommon in the area, but I was so use to brining my own Missal to Mass because many DC churches don’t provide Missals. Other than the minor differences the Mass at Holy Trinity is just like any other Mass at a Catholic church in DC.
What I like most about Holy Trinity is the congregation. The parish is large but every Mass has a substantial congregation that changes every service but every time I walk into the church for Mass I manage to find someone that I know. But what makes Holy Trinity so wonderful is Fr. Murphy. He is one of those Fathers who truly cares about his parish, always talking talking to parishioners and making an effort to know people by their names. Fr. Murphy truly makes Holy Trinity wonderful place to worship. I will miss Holy Trinity when I go back to DC.