If you need any proof that Knoxville is as much in the buckle of the Bible Belt as West or Middle Tennessee, the other day while returning the ladder we rented from Home Depot I was scanning through the FM radio stations from bottom to top (the 80-somethings through 100-somethings) and I found three Christian radio stations. Before I even got out of the 90’s. And those weren’t the only ones! Now I no longer have an excuse to switch to NPR or classic rock if I’m bored with hearing a song three times in a day (as happened often in Martin while listening to K-LOVE or AIR1). I can just rotate between Love 89.1, K-LOVE on 103.1, and a plethora of gospel stations.
And man, are there are a lot of churches.
Karen and I are starting the church search today at Fountain City UMC at 11. We decided we would see about the services on our first visit, then narrow it down, and then try out some Sunday Schools/Bible studies with the ones we really like. Of course, being musicians, we’ve narrowed the expansive list of churches down to those that are Methodist, Baptist (and one non-denominational church recommended by our pet groomer), have a choir and handbells. This, however, does rule out several churches that are only contemporary (for some reason, choral music and handbells aren’t found in contemporary churches…hmm…), but we’ll probably visit some contemporary churches as well.
So many to choose from, so little time! As we have been driving literally all over town the last several days, Karen and I have seen so many church buildings in so many shapes, sizes, and denominations. If there are any Christians out there in the world who need a place to try to find out what they personally like/need from a church, Knoxville is the place to do so. Within about a 10-15 mile radius from the center of town, that person could probably visit a different church every Sunday and not be done before new ones are started. Seriously.
All of this is very good, of course, and it reminds me of how similar things can be between places if you look for the similarities. Take for example, Martin and Knoxville. You wouldn’t think, on the surface, that the two cities (and I use that term loosely when referring to Martin!) would be all that alike, but you’d be wrong. Both are fairly typical Tennessee cities. Both, with four-year universities but also a strong (and large) conservative Christian demographic, are some of the most interesting places in the country to have intellectual political and moral debates. These isn’t your Boston or New York or LA, where it’s (naively) easy to assume that everyone is a liberal, Democrat, non-church-goer. These are interesting spaces!
Right here in Tennessee, who knew?