Southern Belle in Training

Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle Blog || Est. 2012 || Virginia Beach, VA

May 30, 2017

Keeping Your Faith While Living in a Secular Area.

      This week marks seven weeks since I moved to Vermont (!!), and the time has gone by both very quickly and very slowly. Everything related to my job in radio has gone by quickly and pleasantly since I love my job, but some of the aspects of my personal life outside of work make certain days go by a little more slowly, and I would be lying if I said there weren't any hard times yet since the move.

      One thing that has been especially challenging since I moved was moving from a city with a large Christian population back to a very secular area of the country. Let me give a quick background on where I'm from for anyone who might be a newer reader. I'm originally from a small coastal town in Maine, so I've lived in New England for most of my life and was familiar with the culture up here before I accepted my job in Vermont. I definitely think Vermont and Maine have more similarities culturally than Maine has with some of the other New England states, such as Rhode Island or Connecticut. Anyways, although I'm from an area of the country that is beautiful, I hated growing up in my small town. I had a horrific high school experience for many reasons (no exaggeration), but one thing that became increasingly hard for me to deal with as I got older in Maine was the lack of young people who shared my faith. My mom raised me in my elementary school years with the importance of going to church, and my dad came to faith when I was in middle school. By the time that I was in high school, my faith was my own and I knew the importance of living a moral lifestyle and having Christian community. Unfortunately, few people in Maine (and even fewer young people) seemed to also realize that. So that is mainly what motivated me to choose a university in the South... I was ready to experience life in the "Bible Belt."

      ^^I should clarify on the above passage- I am friends with all sorts of people (in Maine, NC and now Vermont!) who don't share my religious views. 😊 Christ showed his love to all people, and I try and do the same. BUT with that said- the importance of creating community who shares your faith and morals is very important (and also biblical- see Hebrews 10:24-25!)

       Anyways, now that I've settled in here in Vermont, I realize that unfortunately it seems to be a lot like Maine in terms of the religious climate. I'm slowly starting to make friends outside of the workplace here, but so far I haven't met any Christian young people yet. In Charlotte, there were Christian churches of all shapes, sizes and denominations. Mega churches were very common in the city (I used to attend one), as well as medium and small sized churches. Of course not everyone that I knew in Charlotte was religious or attended church, but it was more normal to do so then to not. My roommate and I last summer were apart of a bible study with other young women our age through my church, and my church offered tons of other groups just like the one we were in.

      Here in Vermont, there are a decent number of churches for a small area, but they're all very small congregations. I don't so much mind small churches, but what is hard is that very few of them here offer ministry opportunities or groups for young professionals/young people. I've been church hopping since I moved here. For the past few weeks I've been attending a church that I think I like- the worship and sermons remind me of my church in NC. But this church doesn't really do anything in terms of social events or bible study groups for people my age- they have a high school group and then a group for people my parents' age and older. So even though I have been enjoying the sermons, in all honesty, it has been hard for me to be attending and not really finding community. I might still continue to visit other local churches, but what I have heard is that the church that I've been going to is by far the biggest Christian church in the area.

      Charlotte was a very diverse city, probably more diverse then people would think a city in the South is. But even though there is a lot of diversity there, I always felt like there were lots of people around who shared my religious, moral, and even political views. Here in Vermont on some days I find myself feeling very much like an outcast. I already keep my faith, morals and political views hidden from much of my public persona since I work in media, so I am missing having people in my life to share these things with outside of my job.

      I apologize if the whole first part of this post seemed like a rant! I didn't mean for it to. I know I
have so much that God has blessed me with- most importantly a job that I really do enjoy, so I don't want it to seem like I have nothing to be happy about. But at the same time- this is something that has been weighing on me a lot since I moved here, so today I just needed to be honest with y'all. 😊

     Now I would like to share a few things with y'all that I've been doing to do my best to keep my relationship with the Lord strong since my move:

     *Continue attending church regularly: I know I shared above that it has been hard for me to find a church home here, and I'm actually still not sure if I've found one yet, since I think the church I've been going to kind of lacks in community. But it's important to remember that church hopping is a process, and it is unlikely to find a great church with the first one that you visit. But this isn't an excuse to give up on going! I've actually written a whole blog post before on the importance of regularly attending church- and I'm not going to re-write everything that I said in the post here, but I'll just say that I still believe in everything in that post and stand behind all of it!

     *Regularly remind yourself of everything that you stand for: When you're living in a place where it's hard to find people who share all of your morals and values, it can be easy to let those go to the wayside. Peer pressure isn't something that goes away automatically after the school years are done, y'all! But it's so crucial to remember the standards that God holds His children to, and how to continue implementing those in your life. You never know- your behaviors (or lack of certain behaviors!) could be a huge silent but positive influence to people around you, even if they never tell you that it is.

     *Know that God puts trials into your life for a reason: I don't think it's any accident that my first job was in a place like Vermont. There is a reason (beyond just the radio industry!) that I've ended up living here for the time being, and God didn't do it by accident. He puts trials into our lives to teach us to rely more on Him and Him alone. Living in a more secular place is definitely a trial, but something that I've been telling myself a lot is that there is a reason why God thought I could/should handle this right now in my life! Maybe it's so I can use my story of this point in my life to encourage someone else later on. Maybe I'll be a light for Christ for someone who wouldn't have heard His Message here in my new home. Maybe something else. But there is a reason that I live in a place like this right now, and have been struggling to find Christian community. God knows that reason, and in that I take comfort!

     *Seek Christian community in other ways: Even if your current physical location isn't providing you with a lot of faith based community, you can still seek it out virtually! I've been reaching out a lot to Christian friends of mine, both those in North Carolina and also many that I have met through blogging over the years. I need to give a special shout-out to my blogger friend Rachel from Something Delightful! Not only does she have the most adorable fashion blog, but Rachel has become a good friend outside of blogging, and I am always in awe of her strong faith. Rachel sends me many texts of encouragement and sometimes it's something as small as that to brighten my day and point me back to Jesus.

     Have any of you ever moved to (or currently live in) a more secular place where it's hard to find Christian community? What types of things did you do to help cope and still strengthen your faith?

     God Bless,

     xoxo Annaliese (or Charlotte XO on the radio!)


  1. Have you heard of Not sure if it would help, but I was browsing it the other day for a place outside of the Bible Belt and saw a couple postings about a bible study! Maybe there is one near Burlington too! Doesn't hurt to look at least :)

    1. I have actually looked at that- that's a great suggestion!! Unfortunately there aren't really religious groups in this area, but I have heard good things about Meetup in general. :-)

  2. I love this post, Annaliese! Where we're moving in Iowa is a majority-Christian area, but it will be tough because there aren't many young adults living there. I'm already dreading the move because I will have to say goodbye to my amazing church family here. I especially needed the reminder that God puts trials in your life for a reason!

  3. Interestingly enough I was a lot more involved in church and faith based activities when they weren't surrounding me constantly. When I went to college at a Christian school I would say it pushed me further from wanting to be involved in a congregation whereas in high school when it wasn't being pushed on me and everyone I knew wasn't apart of it I was much more interested in church/youth group/etc. Obviously my experience isn't/shouldn't be reflective of anyone else's, just sort of a random juxtaposition.

    I do think it is really important to be around people who don't share your faith (as you obviously noted you are and have been). To me having a strong faith is about understanding all of the other ways people live and still remaining steadfast to your beliefs. While I think it is good to have a few wonderful friends who you can share and talk about your beliefs with I think overall it is really dangerous for anyone (religious or not) not to be in a heterogeneous community. While it might be tricky now (especially with bad memories from high school lingering) I think it could be really good for your faith to blossom in a space that it isn't as "easily accepted" per se. I think in the end it will make you stronger (which of course means facing a few trials) but will be worth it in the end (:

  4. Annaliese, I've loved your posts about faith! I can really relate to this post, as I had a really strong faith community in college and have had to rediscover what community has meant after leaving college in N.C. (I grew up in Charlotte!). I agree with your point about God taking you through different phases of our lives for different learning experiences, and we may not understand those reasons until later on. I've found that faith communities online, podcasts and continuing to build my relationship with God and my friends of faith allowed me to grow and be ready for the next phase of life when it was presented to me. God Bless!


  5. LOVE this post, Annaliese! I will definitely be keeping this in mind as I head off to college this fall!


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