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Teche Area is a rich tapestry of faith

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“He has made everything beautiful and appropriate in its time. He has also planted eternity [a sense of divine purpose] in the human heart [a mysterious longing which nothing under the sun can satisfy, except God]—yet man cannot find out (comprehend, grasp) what God has done (His overall plan) from the beginning to the end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11, Amplified Bible

Faith is a tapestry. To exemplify growth of religion in the Teche Area requires a look at history and is key to understanding daily events unfold in the future. Underneath the unfinished work, strings of the tapestry dangle, seemingly unconnected, until the Master has finished the work.

Snapshots are presented herein. Others will appear in The Daily Iberian Religion section later this year, some already written as faith has taken a leap into current events reported not only in lifestyle stories but front-page news. God’s army is arising to make communities along the Bayou Teche, built by settlers with faith, safe for new generations.

Blending the Cultures

The Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities, 2017 Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, said New Iberia was established by two different populations united by a common religion — Catholics from Andalusia, Spain, and thousands of Acadians, French-Catholics from Canada’s Maritime Provinces.

 While Jews never constituted a large percentage of New Iberia’s population, their arrival in the 1870s changed the city’s religious, economic and social climate. The larger, Christian community in New Iberia embraced their Jewish counterparts and the Jews have reciprocated, the Encyclopedia said.

Historian John Reedom said in a recent interview for The Daily Iberian, many black Catholics were not ministered to as reconstruction left former slaves unable to travel the distances to get to the Parish Hall. Dated anniversaries listed weekly in the Religion calendar evidence established congregations of the Protestant faith as far back as 175 years.

“The earliest African American church about which I know in this area — which doesn’t mean it was the first, it just means it’s the earliest one I know about — is the one on Avery Island that is still standing today,” said author, historian and archivist  at McIlhenney Co,.Shane K. Bernard.

 Bernard said prior to the Catholic practitioners, Native Americans were in the region. Protestantism would have been introduced as increasing numbers of Anglo-Saxons and Scots-Irish settlers came to the area. He did not know about any African religions that might have been brought to the region by slaves.

These ancestors of diverse faiths worked together through difficulties learning to co-exist. Although prominence remains Catholic and Protestant, evidenced by the more than 160 churches recently identified by the Iberia Christian Ministerial Federation, the gumbo of faith welcomes others choosing the religion of their people.

Blending of Peoples

Followers of Buddhist traditions and spectators gather every Easter weekend for a three-day festival to celebrate the Lao New Year at The Wat Thammarattanaram Buddhist Temple at Lanexang Village in Coteau. Also near are the dates for Jewish remembrance of Passover and among Christians, the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Earlier attempts to find people in New Iberia practicing the Hindu faith were not successful. There also have been unverified reports from eyewitness accounts an active group of satanic cultist worship in the Teche Area. Practicing Muslims are surely within the tri-parish area, yet they are unidentified at this time, and small numbers represent other faith groups.

 As in any region there are atheists who do not believe in deities and agnostics who believe that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena — a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God.

 Yet, the love of family, appreciation for quality of life along the Bayou Teche have provided the “perfect storm” for what is on the horizon.

Fields of faith have been tilled for more than two centuries. Descendants of those who fought for dominion and freedom to practice personal faith are still advancing. With fortitude to battle spiritual dominions in heavenly realms, Ephesians 6:12, Protestants and Catholics are bonding in new ways based on shared beliefs that God’s heavenly kingdom through Jesus Christ is advancing toward His prophesied return.

 To insure all people have a chance to choose eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ, believers are becoming vocal, standing for the principles of one Supreme God that began with the faith of the Hebrews.

 No longer isolated in churches, Christians are leaders in business, education, the arts and community leaders, reflections of faith to please the One they serve. The earnest embrace of righteousness reflects a true love of God and will draw others into the light as it continues to shine brighter along the Bayou Teche.

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