Ecologies of Faith in New York City: The Evolution of Religious Institutions

Ecologies of Faith in New York City: The Evolution of Religious Institutions

Ecologies of Faith in New York City: The Evolution of Religious Institutions

Ecologies of Faith in New York City: The Evolution of Religious Institutions

Synopsis

Ecologies of Faith in New York City examines patterns of interreligious cooperation and conflict in New York City. It explores how representative congregations in this religiously diverse city interact with their surroundings by competing for members, seeking out niches, or cooperating via coalitions and neighborhood organizations. Based on in-depth research in New York's ethnically mixed and rapidly changing neighborhoods, the essays in the volume describe how religious institutions shape and are shaped by their environments, what new roles they have assumed, and how they relate to other religious groups in the community.

Excerpt

After pioneering research by H. Paul Douglass in the 1920s and 1930s, the questions surrounding what congregations do and how they are related to the larger society faded from view for half a century. Social scientists were preoccupied with the notion that religion was a dying force, a story line interrupted only by macro social forces like the civil rights movement, not by the ordinary religious lives carried on in local communities. Local communities of faith were simply not on the radar screen, either of sociologists or of denominational leaders. the religious heroes of the day were theologians (such as the Niebuhrs) and movement leaders (like Martin Luther King, Jr.). If religion changed the world – or was changed by the world – the changes would involve seismic cultural shifts, not alterations in local landscapes.

When a small group of sociologists and church leaders met at the Lilly Endowment in the early 1980s, the notion of studying congregations was something of a dare. Would anyone pay attention? But an informal group, known as the Congregational Studies Project Team, emerged, and it produced The Handbook for Congregational Studies in 1986. the Handbook struck a responsive chord, and attention to congregations began to gather momentum in both seminaries and among social scientists. One of the key analytical moves advocated by the Handbook’s authors was attention to what they called “context.” They spoke of congregations as in a constant state of flux. “The sources of change are primarily environmental, forcing the religious institution to adjust to what is going on around it,” they wrote (p. 48). As the team was steeped in an activist liberal Protestant tradition, the well-being of society was a critical concern, and the embodiment of the gospel in human cultures was taken for granted.

By the early 1990s, it was not just liberal Protestants doing the studying or being studied. My own earliest work had focused on American Fundamen-

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.