High Country Churches: Religions Old and New Flourish in the Mountains

High Country Churches: Religions Old and New Flourish in the Mountains

The Blue Ridge Mountains are covered with churches, some seemingly as old as the hills themselves, tiny wooden buildings tucked away in valleys or nestled along streams. Others are modern edifices of brick and steel, but with the same promise of fellowship and community.

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Virtually all the churches in the region welcome visitors, and finding an out-of-the-way church can sometimes bring as much joy as attending a service. There are also churches that actively recruit visitors, whether they are one-time guests or are staying in the High Country for the summer. Visiting a new area also offers the chance to expose yourself to different denominations and see how other people worship.

Some area churches are the summer home for many visitors. Mount Vernon Baptist Church on Bamboo Road in Boone has always opened its doors to tourists. "We just welcome people coming to the area," says Pastor Allan Blume. "We reach out to them. They need spiritual growth, and we have a lot of different opportunities- athletics, Bible Study classes, aerobics. We have a large number of Florida residents that come every summer and we also have new people dropping in all the time."

Other churches that advertise for visitors include The Central Assembly of God, First Baptist Church in Boone, Brookside Presbyterian Church, and First Presbyterian Church. St. Elizabeth's Catholic Church in Boone opens every service by asking visitors where they're from and extending a welcome. The church also operates a summers-only mission called Church of the Epiphany in Blowing Rock. Bethany United Methodist Church in West Jefferson and St. Mary's of the Hills Episcopal Church in Blowing Rock are also beautiful places to spend a Sunday morning. Mt. Calvary Baptist Church in Banner Elk also invites visitors to services.

For those that can't get to church, an organization sponsored by more than 60 churches can bring the Word to you. Resort Area Ministries serve four area campgrounds as well as operating a thrift shop in Boone and a special ministry in Linville. "We have services at Linville Land Harbor," says Director Tom Moore. "A different minister leads the service each week. It's at the recreational facility in Land Harbor." But Moore believes that any church can serve spiritual needs. "Part of what R.A.M. encourages people to do is go to local churches," he says.

Though the Baptist faith is as rooted in the mountains as the granite foundation, a wide variety of other denominations are available. There's a Unitarian Fellowship in Boone, Mormon churches in Banner Elk and Boone, Mennonites, St_AndrewsSeventh-Day Adventists, Word of Faith churches, and the interdenominational Living Water Christian Fellowship. The telephone book is a good place to start your search, unless you'd rather take to the hills for a scenic drive with a higher purpose.High Country Churches

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