Sacred Spaces 26 images Created 11 Aug 2014
Religion, mainly Protestant and Catholic in this region, is a spiritual and social bond for families in these small rural communities. Living their faith means showing up for church services, attending covered dish suppers, and taking care of each other in the hard times of sickness and death. Those tasks increasingly become more difficult as church members age and fewer young people remain. In the smallest congregations, there are often more members in the cemetery than in the church pews on Sunday. The Delta countryside is strewn with long forgotten communities remembered only by the graves of the people who once lived there. Names on markers of varying shapes and sizes bear witness to lives cut short by early tragedies – epidemics, child birth, and war. In the larger “town” cemeteries, the names on the markers tell the stories of the early ethnicity of the population – Jewish, Italian, Chinese, Lebanese, Syrian, and others. Traditionally, African American churches have not only been a place of worship, but are often surrounded by their own small cemeteries. Many of these tiny wooden buildings, sometimes only wide enough for two rows of pews separated by a walkway to salvation, are often left to decay in cotton or soybeans fields until only the graves give voice to the church’s existence.