Part of the Faith on the Border series
By Dan McWilliams
Father Tom Shuler is pastor of the border parish that sits inside Georgia.
“It presents an interesting situation in that about half of our parishioners are from the Georgia side, and about half are from the Tennessee side,” he said. “I don’t pick up any differences, rivalries, or something like that. It’s always been that way.”
His parish does “have a lot of visitors,” Father Shuler said.
“A lot of them come to Cloudland [Canyon] State Park and places like that, and we also get visitors who are staying in Chattanooga,” he said.
Rivalries or not, everyone is all one once they’re inside the church, according to Father Shuler.
“It’s the universal Church,” he said. “Part of my philosophy is I want a strong relationship with the Archdiocese of Atlanta because we are part of that diocese, and they provide services and things that are helpful to us. But we’re also a member of the Lookout Mountain community, and we’re members of the Chattanooga community. I make sure that we pay attention to all the entities that we serve.”
Parishioner Karan Stockett of Chattanooga said that Our Lady of the Mount is conveniently located for her.
“I work in Tennessee, but I feel comfortable here because I actually grew up in the Archdiocese of Atlanta,” she said. “I’m from Atlanta, and so since this church is part of the archdiocese, I’m familiar with a lot of the churches in Atlanta.
“It’s a very wonderful community. I feel like people here feel connected through their faith and through their friendship and through the community. I think community is important in any parish.”
John Nash of Chattanooga said Our Lady of the Mount is “home,” border or not.
“It’s very convenient, because we’re so close to the state line,” he said. “We used to live about half a mile from here, and we’ve been here 20 years. We just recently moved downtown into the city, and we still come to our home parish.
It’s our home church.” His wife, Susan Nash, said their four sons attended Search retreats in Chattanooga.
“We have to [adapt to both sides of the line], especially with this being a small church, and there are not that many teenagers,” she said.
“The Chattanooga area has a lot of resources, and they’re very good.”