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A matter of faithPosted Wednesday, July 27, 2011, at 3:52 PM
I knew those words.
"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change."
A board member I didn't recognize smiled, as I recited the phrase along with the members of the Saline County Health Department Board of Trustees. In high school I tucked a shred of paper with those words behind my then newly-acquired driver's license. The Serenity Prayer is a favorite mantra of mine, and one I quote often.
As The Marshall Democrat-News' new reporter and a transplant to Saline County, I spend evenings fumbling through old news stories attempting to learn about the people, places and organizations now consuming my life. So in a room where I only recognized Slater Mayor Stephen Allegri and a KMMO reporter, it shocked me to hear something familiar.
With each passing day I discover unexpected perks to living in a place with less residents than Mizzou has undergrads. I love the omelets at Grace Brothers, the people in my daily routine and the lack of traffic. Despite my mere three minute morning commute to the office, Saline County's extreme sense of religion impresses me the most.
I come from place where Atheists on school boards omitted prayers from public high school graduations. I've covered city council meetings in a handful of St. Louis municipalities and never once did I hear the words "Dear Lord," spoken, or the council ask for heavenly guidance in government decisions.
My first night in Slater, a young alderman in a Royal's shirt bowed his head and began the meeting in prayer. In Sweet Springs, before any council business is addressed, a minister asks God to grant the council members wisdom in their decision making. When the pledge of allegiance is spoken, the "under God" part is included, and no one fusses about it.
As a product of 12 years of sheltered Catholic education, I first experienced religious diversity in college. While I never expected everyone to believe in God, I certainly didn't plan for my faith to be challenged.
Every Sunday evening, dorm mates questioned my choice to attend mass instead of sticking around for the weekly pizza and Simpsons party. A few weeks into my first semester, I truly realized the difference between my plaid high school uniform skirt and a Mizzou hoodie. A friend hung a horrifying poster above his bed, and I can still see the hooded figure holding out the bible with the word "lies" bleeding out of the pages.
Those among many other trying moments created a sense of cautiousness about my own faith. You can imagine how nervous I was to request Sunday mornings off at my first job. But without hesitation Eric and Shelly both claimed Marshall was a religious town and finding time for mass each weekend would never be a problem. A mere "amen" at council meetings and beautiful gospel music at the Saline County BBQ has more than proven their point.
I've felt welcomed in Saline County, but I think the best welcome wagon came in the form of the deep sense of faith in this town. Thank you all for that blessing.
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Maggie Menderski graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri in May 2011. The St. Louis native began working as a staff writer for the Democrat-News shortly after. In her Out of Ink blog, she (typically) muses about the differences between rural and suburban life.