Religion in Appalachia, StoryCorps Special Year End Episode


We’ve teamed up with StoryCorps and Georgetown University’s American Pilgrimage Project for this episode about faith in Appalachia.

We hear a 91-year-old man talk about his baptism in a river when a revival came to town.

When Tragedy Strikes, a Daughter Questions her Faith

A woman finds out how important her faith was to her after her father was injured in a mining accident.

“It’s hard to keep the faith in situations like that. But you kind of have no other choice. It’s like you have your faith or you have nothing. And I’d rather have my faith than have nothing,” says Adelina Lancianese, in an interview with her grandfather, 84-year-old Pasco Lancianese, whose parents immigrated to West Virginia from Italy. His parents were Catholic, but he converted to the Protestant church when he was in his thirties.

Jewish Man Says He Feels Welcomed by West Virginians

And a rabbi remembers the first time he visited West Virginia thirty years ago.

“We’re walking down the Kanawha Boulevard, and Christians were coming up to us. They saw my head covering, my yamaka, and they were saying, ‘Shalom’. Some were even saying, ‘Shabbat Shalom,’” remembers Victor Urecki, the rabbi at B’nai Jacob Synagogue in Charleston, West Virginia. Urecki was originally born in Argentina, but he found his home in Appalachia.

Muslim Woman Speaks About Her Friendship with People From Other Faiths

These days, Urecki has been inspired to welcome Muslims and Christians into his Synagogue. And over the past few years, he’s become good friends with Ibtesam Barazi, a Syrian Immigrant who also goes by Sue.

Barazi is also the vice president of the Islamic Association of West Virginia.


Credit StoryCorps
James Patterson and Ronald English, ministers in Charleston

Two Preachers Recall Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s: StoryCorps in W.Va.

We also hear from Ronald English and James Patterson, two ministers in Charleston. While thousands of people feel “called” to minister, not everyone can say they learned from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. himself. Ronald English served as assistant to Martin Luther King Jr. at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

“I gave the prayer at his funeral, which was one of the saddest moments of my life.”

We had help producing Inside Appalachia this week from StoryCorps. All of these interviews were recorded as part of the American Pilgrimage Project, a partnership of the national nonprofit, StoryCorps, West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. The interviews were recorded in Charleston, West Virginia. Dan Collison, Beth Vorhees, Jessica Lilly and Roxy Todd produced the stories.

Original music for this episode was composed by Matt Jackfert. Other music was by Dinosaur Burps, Lucinda Williams and Hurray for the Riff Raff, as heard on Mountain Stage.

Our producer is Roxy Todd. Our editor is Jesse Wright. Our audio mixer is Zander Aloi.

We’d love to hear from you. You can e-mail us at Find us on Twitter @InAppalachia or @JessicaYLilly.