Filipino American Faith in Action: Immigration, Religion, and Civic Engagement

Filipino American Faith in Action: Immigration, Religion, and Civic Engagement

Filipino American Faith in Action: Immigration, Religion, and Civic Engagement

Filipino American Faith in Action: Immigration, Religion, and Civic Engagement

Synopsis

Filipinos are now the second largest Asian American immigrant group in the United States, with a population larger than Japanese Americans and Korean Americans combined. Surprisingly, there is little published on Filipino Americans and their religion, or the ways in which their religious traditions may influence the broader culture in which they are becoming established.

Filipino American Faith in Action draws on interviews, survey data, and participant observation to shed light on this large immigrant community. It explores Filipino American religious institutions as essential locations for empowerment and civic engagement, illuminating how Filipino spiritual experiences can offer a lens for viewing this migrant community's social, political, economic, and cultural integration into American life. Gonzalez examines Filipino American church involvement and religious practices in the San Francisco Bay Area and in the Phillipines, showing how Filipino Americans maintain community and ethnic and religious networks, contra assimilation theory, and how they go about sharing their traditions with the larger society.

Excerpt

One Sunday more than a century ago, an elegantly dressed Peter Burnett and his wife, Harriet, walked two blocks from their home to the Sunday school where their daughter taught. As they crossed the street, a young gentleman respectfully tipped his black top hat as he recognized Burnett, who was the first governor of California. the Bible study groups at the Sunday school were organized by members of the University Mount Presbyterian Church, who came from the wealthy families of European descent living in nearby Portola Valley. in attendance were affluent first- and second-generation Italian migrants as well as a few French and German families. Some had moved to San Francisco from South and North Carolina but still considered themselves citizens of the Old World—Sicilian and Maltese, for example. These families established homes and businesses around San Francisco’s Visitacion Valley. As their numbers grew, and undeterred by the battering of the great 1906 earthquake, they built Saint James Presbyterian Church on Leland Street. However, in the 1960s and 1970s, the pull of suburbia and the influx of African, Latino, and Asian imigrants changed the demographic makeup of the busy neighborhood. For various reasons, newcomers to the area were not drawn to Saint James. Attrition took its toll on the once-vibrant church membership, and by the 1980s, Saint James faced closure by the presbytery. By 1990, however, instead of closing its doors, historic Saint James Presbyterian Church was opening them wider to receive an eager group of Protestants from across the Pacific. Unlike the church’s founding members, these new parishioners liked to hear the word of God in a mix of the Philippine dialect Tagalog and English (or Taglish). Many originated from Cavite Province, but in all, the membership represented numerous regions throughout the Philippines. As part of a rehabilitation plan established with the Presbytery, the new Filipino membership recruited . . .

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