Katy Shrout was a student at Emory University when she began her research on the religious diversity of Augusta, Georgia. She sought first to map religious diversity in Augusta, providing statistical information, reports of visits, history, and photographic images for some of its world religious centers. Profiled centers included one Sikh gurudwara, Guru Singh Sabha Augusta; a Thai/Laotian Theravada Buddhist temple (Wat Santidham); the Hindu Temple Society of Augusta; the Augusta Islamic Society, the Augusta Baha’i community, and Darkwood of Pangea, a pagan center. Further information was also be provided about the Jain community and Swaminarayan Hindu Temple.
Her second goal will be to clarify how the greater Augusta community—including its large and predominantly evangelical Christian population—has encountered and interacted with newer religious groups. She identified two important mediators for such interaction: first, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Augusta, which has provided a forum for interfaith dialogue (especially after September 11th), and second, the local newspaper, the Augusta Chronicle, which has been a longstanding arena for debate over tolerance and evangelism towards non-Christian groups. She profiled and interviewed leaders at the Unitarian Universalist Church, as well as completed archival research on religious debate on the editorial pages and coverage in the Religion section of the Augusta Chronicle since September 11, 2001.
At the time of this research, Shrout wrote of Augusta:
Augusta is Georgia’s second city—second in population (to Atlanta) and second in age (to Savannah). Located on the Georgia-South Carolina border, about 150 miles east of Atlanta, its metropolitan area totals about 475,000 persons, according to the 2000 Census. Augusta is the birthplace of the Southern Baptist denomination, and the location of the first autonomous black Baptist church in the nation. The region’s three largest employers include the Savannah River Site (a Department of Energy nuclear facility), the U.S. Army Signal Center and Fort Gordon, and the Medical College of Georgia. The city’s famous golf course (the Augusta National) attracted national media attention last year for its refusal to allow women membership.
Selected Links and Publications
- Center Profiles