I rolled out of bed at 10:35 Sunday morning. Church in 25 minutes. Alex and I stayed home last week when the family – grandparents, neighbors and all – went to service in Murfreesboro. I didn’t want to miss out on a true southern Sunday morning.
I threw on one of William’s shirts and hopped in the car. William’s mom flew through downtown Carrollton and we still arrived five minutes late.
The service wasn’t much different from other Methodist services I had attended. William later told me, “That’s about as liberal as it gets around here.” The accents did attract my attention. The cheerful Sunday school teacher drawled in the faces of her children and the minister channeled Foxworthy while discussing a world gone “off track.”
There was a baptism, not much different from every other baptism I had ever witnessed but for the black guest preacher presiding over the ceremony. There were chuckles as the infant protested the holy water dumped on his head and the congregation vowed to raise him in the Christian life.
However, I soon learned the baptism was indeed special,
The father of the baptized infant was the son of an important man in Carrollton. While William was home from school in December, word got around that the his teenage daughter had died.
She was pregnant with twins but told no one. The family heard cries from the basement and discovered the daugher had given birth to twins. The babies were stillborn, the young mother died hours later.
The community was in shock. Therapists were on call at the local schools and teachers did their best to comfort students.
Thus, the baptism of the healthy grandson was a significant moment in the Carrollton community still grieving from the tragedy.
Georgia has the eighth highest teen pregnancy rate in the nation, according to a 2008 study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, with more than 22,500 teen pregnancies each year. The Georgia Campaign for Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention has launched a campaign to reduce adolescent pregnancies by 15 percent by the year 2015.
The organization has a fascinating map on its website combining census and health survey data to show teen pregnancy rates in Georgia counties along side income and employment data.
“Girls who grow up in poverty and without hope of bettering their situation are likely to be teen mothers,” writes Jane Fonda, the famous activist and G-CAPP founder. “Without early and on-going interventions, their early parenthood virtually guarantees that they and their children will spend their lives in poverty.”
G-CAPP seems to hold poverty levels and poor sexual education within ethnic minority groups responsible for teen pregnancy rates. A social divide is apparent in Carrollton, the county seat of Carroll County nestled between Alabama and Atlanta, where the country club on the east side and government project housing on the west side of town divide the community. As the tragedy of the mayor’s baptized grandson demonstrated, the issue affects all sections of Georgian society.