Exploring Faith-Based Organizations in Northeastern Mississippi

Religion has been an integral part of life in Mississippi since the first European settlers arrived in the late 17th century. From missionaries to Native Americans, through the construction of churches and schools on the border, to the growth of African-American Christianity and the making of an argument for slavery, religious beliefs and practices have been fundamental to many aspects of life in colonial and pre-war Mississippi. The Prohibition movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries added a new political dimension to Mississippi's religious life. The expansion of church activities to serve Latino immigrants and the growth of Spanish-speaking church groups have been some of the most visible changes in Mississippi's religious landscape.

An interesting statistical comparison shows that, while United Methodists account for about 10 percent of all religious followers, roughly double the percentage of Catholics, who make up 4.8 percent, United Methodists are widespread throughout the state, present almost everywhere, and do not dominate any one area. On the other hand, in 44 Mississippi counties in 2000, Catholics represented less than 1 percent of all religious followers. Groups in that category made up more than a quarter of all religious followers everywhere in Mississippi, except for the northeast corner of the state and seven counties on the Gulf Coast. The first attempts to establish permanent churches of different Protestant denominations began in southwestern Mississippi.

The emancipation of slaves caused dramatic changes in church life, and many African-Americans interpreted emancipation as part of liberation from slavery in the Promised Land and abandoned white-led churches in large numbers to establish their own institutions. The Baptist Student Union (BSU) is a dynamic ministry of 2,130 Mississippi Baptist churches on college and university campuses across our state. BSU reaches students for Jesus Christ and keeps them involved in the life of the church during their college years. The BSU is located on 30 campuses in Mississippi (26%) and many more across the country) and offers a Christ-centered, student-led ministry led by a university minister.

Christian music has been an important part of Mississippi's religious culture since its inception. From The Blind Boys Of Mississippi and The Blackwood Brothers (both bands with roots in the 1930s), to Pops Staples and The Staples Singers, to more recent artists such as The Jackson Southernaires, The Mississippi Mass Choir, and Ann Downing - Christian music has been a powerful force for faith-based organizations throughout northeastern Mississippi. A 2000 survey of religious life in the United States helps identify some of the most important characteristics of Mississippi religion. Many of the state's most powerful literary figures brought religious themes to life in memorable ways, from Richard Wright's rejection of his grandmother's religion in Black Boy to William Faulkner's characters who wrestled with Christian demands for self-control, Anne Moody's criticism of calls for religious nonviolence in Coming Of Age In Mississippi, to Will Campbell's memoirs about life on the farm, race, and redemption. This article explores some of the faith-based organizations found within northeastern Mississippi communities. From Baptist Student Unions to Catholic congregations to Christian music groups - this region is home to a variety of religious institutions. The Mississippi Associate Degree Nursing Organization is based on providing associate nursing students with leadership, service, and responsibility skills they will develop in their future careers after graduation.

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