Faith on the Border

East Tennessee is home to parishes that serve both sides of the state line

By Dan McWilliams
Photography by Stephanie Richer

The universal Church always has transcended geographical borders. Nowhere is that more evident than in East Tennessee.

Yes, East Tennessee is blessed with several Catholic churches located in border towns that straddle, or nearly straddle, the state line. Some are in the Diocese of Knoxville, and some are across the lines in neighboring dioceses.

For many of those attending these churches, they serve as convenient places to go to Mass, as opposed to more distant, centrally located churches in their home counties.

Other parishioners have strong attachments to border parishes: They’re “home” for them. And for one man, a simple “I love my parish” explains his reason for attending his church, borders notwithstanding.

Some border churches experience friendly sports rivalries among parishioners, but they find that those rivalries cease once they are inside church and Mass begins.

The East Tennessee Catholic Magazine visited five border churches that draw from both Tennessee and neighboring states.

The Diocese of Knoxville has additional churches that attract Mass-goers from other states. St. Dominic in Kingsport has a handful of Virginia parishioners. Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Chattanooga has many members from Rossville and Ringgold in Georgia. St. Anthony of Padua in Mountain City, St. Elizabeth in Elizabethton, and St. Michael the Archangel in Erwin, draw an occasional North Carolinian to Mass. Kentuckians come as far south as Christ the King in Tazewell, St. Teresa of Kolkata in Maynardville, and St. Jude in Helenwood.

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