The religious backgrounds of Prather's congregation at his Penecostal church are varied. "We’ve got lifelong Pentecostals, former Baptists, former Catholics, refugees from the non-instrumental Church of Christ, and people of no discernable religious heritage," he writes. He notes his congregation like most people are no longer receptive "to legalistic doctrines or fire-and- brimstone sermons." While women may have always done most of the work at rural churches, Prather writes they now do it in a more official capacity serving in leadership positions.
Smoking is now a social taboo for Prather's congregation, while drinking and swearing are much more common and accepted that he remembers as a child. While Montgomery County is traditionally made up of conservative Democrats, Prather notes his congregation has Tea Partiers, Old Glory Republicans and Barack Obama Democrats, and says he had to ban partisan discussions to prevent fistfights.
While the racial makeup of rural congregations may not have changed, the overwhelming white majority of Prather's congregation is now a more a "matter of local demographics than bigotry," writes Prather, former religion reporter for the Lexington Herald-Leader. He concludes if you were to walk into a modern day rural congregation you would "discover they were as well-traveled and complicated and self-contradictory and holy and confused and profane and delightful and enlightened and irritating as any similar-sized group you’d stumble into in Austin or Portland." (Read more)