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The Real Economy

Finding faith in the Athens, Ga. economy

Kai Ryssdal Mar 5, 2012

Kai Ryssdal: To pick up on something David said in his piece, a lot of people in Georgia — because of the economy and shrinking state budgets – -have turned to the church for financial help and social services. We spent a day in Athens last fall — Athens, Ga., not Greece — for a show about how what happens over there plays out here. One of the people we spoke to back then was Father Anthony Salzman, the pastor at St. Philothea’s Greek Orthodox Church in Watkinsville, just outside of Athens. Father, good to have you back.

Anthony Salzman: Good to talk to you, Kai.

Ryssdal: Maybe the first question is how are things? We met in Athens six months ago and it was shaky.

Salzman: Well, funny you should ask ’cause — I’m not blaming you — but when you left the wheels came off, in our parish anyway. I didn’t know if I’d be here this long into it.

Ryssdal: What about the rest of your parishoners? The whole parish had its problems, what about the rest of ’em at St. Philothea’s there?

Salzman: For the most part, there’s kind of two situations that illustrate exactly what’s going on in the country. One person lost their job, and they’ve lost their job a few times and then they found another one. But another one got a huge opportunity and is flying all over the country and we never see him anymore. So you see kind of both things going on.

Ryssdal: Do you see in your daily life out and about in and near Athens signs that things are getting better in the economy? Is there something visible?

Salzman: When Mel Davis puts on a baseball cap that says Caterpillar and is on the front page of the newspaper, you know something’s going on.

Ryssdal: You have to remind us who Mel Davis is.

Salzman: He’s the controller for Watkinsville and Caterpillar is building a plant in Athens, Ga. That kind of energy really gives people a lot of excitement.

Ryssdal: Do people think about jobs a lot? Is that a worry or is it something else?

Salzman: I think people are aware and attentive to what’s going on. But in our little parish, attitudes have turned around, people are starting to have hope, church has become a sanctuary. When this recession began, I said our financial numbers are going to drop in the short run, but they’re going to grow because God’s going to get people’s attention. People are going to start coming back to church. I see that happening. I’m your guy for hope.

Ryssdal: Father Anthony Salzman at St. Philothea’s Greek Orthodox Church near Athens, Ga. Father, thanks a lot.

Salzman: Good to talk to you, Kai.

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