Saving America? Faith-Based Services and the Future of Civil Society

By Robert Wuthnow | Go to book overview

4
Religion and Volunteering

Gwen Marshall is a thirty-six-year-old Episcopalian who lives in an uppermiddle-class suburb of Knoxville, Tennessee. Several times a year she volunteers for Habitat for Humanity. Habitat recruits volunteers who work with low-income families to construct homes which these families can then purchase at affordable prices. In the Knoxville area, Habitat-built homes would typically cost fifty thousand dollars if sold on the open market, but eligible families purchase them for approximately thirty thousand dollars. Volunteers such as Mrs. Marshall show up for an hour or two on a given Saturday morning if they happen to have time. Students can also fulfill community service requirements this way. Church youth groups can participate on a once- or twice-a-year basis. Busy middle-class professionals who have little control over their work and travel schedules can take part if a business trip or soccer game doesn't interfere. Mrs. Marshall became involved in Habitat several years ago when the traveling required by her job as a bank inspector became too much and she decided to take some time off. She wanted to make a worthwhile contribution without locking herself into too much of a commitment. Neither serving on the altar guild at her church nor undergoing the training to become a deaconess met these criteria. When she consulted her pastor, he advised her to volunteer for Habitat.

John Lee is a Chinese American in his late twenties who works as a teacher and attends church services every week at a large suburban Presbyterian church in eastern Pennsylvania. Through the church he has made close friends with several other people and has gone on church-sponsored trips with them to China and Nicaragua. Several years ago he found himself with time on his hands. His friends at the church encouraged him to talk to the pastor of a large inner-city church in the area that sponsored service projects. Mr. Lee had enjoyed his previous international trips, so

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Saving America? Faith-Based Services and the Future of Civil Society
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Tables ix
  • Preface xiii
  • 1: Why “faith-Based”? Why Now? 1
  • 2: Congregation-Based Social Services 25
  • 3: Congregations as Caring Communities 64
  • 4: Religion and Volunteering 99
  • 5: Faith-Based Service Organizations 138
  • 6: The Recipients of Social Services 176
  • 7: Promoting Social Trust 217
  • 8: Experiencing Unlimited Love? 256
  • 9: Public Policy and Civil Society 286
  • Methodological Note 311
  • Notes 315
  • Select Bibliography 333
  • Index 349
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