The Spiritual Side of Charlotte

Charlotte's large spiritual community shapes the city's diverse culture.
By: Allen Norwood
Related To:
White Tags With Words

White Tags With Words

For your Thanksgiving tree centerpiece, write messages on the back of each of the shapes that you'll hang on the tree.

Outsiders know about banking and NASCAR. But locals know it all starts with faith. With some 700 churches and growing, Charlotte prides itself as a city of diverse spirituality.

Evangelist Billy Graham was born in Charlotte, on a dairy farm near what is now Park Road Shopping Center. The new Billy Graham Library, which chronicles Graham's 60-year preaching career, sits just a few miles from where he grew up. The library officially reconnects Graham to Charlotte -- and the old house has come back to the city, too.

Television evangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker also rose to prominence here. Years ago, when they were at their peak, they bought Graham's boyhood home and moved it to their PTL Club campus in nearby Fort Mill, S.C. Although they tumbled from grace, the house endured. When the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association relocated from Minneapolis to Charlotte, it bought and moved the house.

The stately brick house with symmetrical one-story wings now shares a campus with the library. The house was restored with attention to authentic detail, down to the half-written letter Graham's mother was composing at her death.

Many Faiths, One Community

The Charlotte branch of the United House of Prayer for All People was founded in 1926 by Bishop "Sweet Daddy" Grace, in a tent at what are now Third and Caldwell streets. Today, the predominantly African-American church is woven into Charlotte's spiritual tapestry. The main church, the "mother house," is on Beatties Ford Road and congregations dot the city. UHOP serves the best Southern cooking in town at lunchtime.

When the fledgling Trinity Episcopal School opened near uptown, it didn't have an auditorium for daily chapel. The nearby House of Prayer threw open its doors, and the kids trooped back and forth for services. The Episcopal school didn't have a cafeteria either. The House of Prayer started delivering hot lunches: collard greens, macaroni and cheese, chicken, meatloaf. Trinity moms joked that the fare had soured the students forever on "real" school food -- and maybe even on home cooking.

Charlotte is a city of newcomers, and they've changed the faith landscape. The city was founded by Scotch-Irish Presbyterians. But Catholics, many moving down from the Northeast, now make up the single largest denomination. There are now more than 70,000 Catholics in Mecklenburg County, topping the 50,000 Southern Baptists. That shift would surprise many Charlotteans.

The spiritual community often amazes newcomers. When New Yorkers arrive, some are surprised to find two Jewish synagogues, Temple Israel and Temple Beth El, sharing the same campus. The two congregations share 54-acre Shalom Park with the Jewish Community Center. That's not what longtime Manhattan residents are used to. There, tight communities develop around single synagogues. It's just different here -- where not all members of the popular "J" (the local nickname for the community center) are even Jewish.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Tampa's Historic Boom Era Hotels

Tampa's buildings are of historical significance, with beautiful architecture and charm.

Profile: Miami, Florida

Discover this melting pot city with this short profile.

Local Life and Lore in Atlanta

Driving is a way of life in Atlanta, so mastering the unique local traffic-speak is key to getting to know the city.

Atlanta: Like No Place Else

The southern city retains its charm and traditions while adapting to the changes brought with newcomers.

Old and New Mingle in Fort Lauderdale

These leaders have helped to shape Fort Lauderdale in the last two decades.

Local Life and Lore in Savannah

School yourself on the local lingo and traditions in Savannah, Georgia, and blend right into the local crowd.

Tampa Bay: Like No Place Else

Our hometown isn't just our home; it's a popular vacation destination.

Miami Essentials

Find out the best places to go in Miami for whatever it is you want to do.

Local Lore and Lingo in Richmond

Fit in with the locals by getting to know these facts about the city.

On TV

Top GAC Shows

Flea Market Flip

Sundays at 8|7c

Living Alaska

Mondays at 9|8c

Top 20 Countdown

Consult Program Guide

Flippin' RVs

Wednesdays 9|8c

Get Social With Us

Let's explore this country together.