Religion and Community in the New Urban America

Religion and Community in the New Urban America

Religion and Community in the New Urban America

Religion and Community in the New Urban America

Synopsis

Religion and Community in the New Urban America examines the interrelated transformations of cities and urban congregations. The authors ask how the new metropolis affects local religious communities and what role those communities play in creating the new metropolis. Through an in-depth study of fifteen Chicago congregations - Catholic parishes, Protestant churches, Jewish synagogues, Muslim mosques, and a Hindu temple, both city and suburban - this book describes congregational life and measures congregational influences on urban environments. Paul D. Numrich and Elfriede Wedam challenge the view held by many urban studies scholars that religion plays a small role - if any - in shaping postindustrial cities and that religious communities merely adapt to urban structures in a passive fashion. Taking into account the spatial distribution of constituents, internal traits, and external actions, each congregation's urban impact is plotted on a continuum of weak, to moderate, to strong, thus providing a nuanced understanding of the significance of religion in the contemporary urban context. Presenting a thoughtful analysis that includes maps of each congregation in its social-geographic setting, the authors offer an insightful look into urban community life today, from congregations to the places in which they are embedded.

Excerpt

Chicago has been the primary focus for the study of the city for just short of a hundred years. Through that time many individuals and teams, from many different disciplines, have focused on the structures of the city, on the lives of its inhabitants, and on the way in which the people impact on the city and the city impacts on its people. From the very start Robert Park emphasized the need to focus both on the “ecology” of the city, its social and physical structures, and on the “moral order” of the urban community. For many in sociology, history, urban studies, and urban planning, the first of these has predominated over the second. In focusing, once again, on Chicago, and in this case taking into account the wider metropolis, Elfriede Wedam and Paul Numrich have attempted to redress the balance. They explore the relationship between religion and the city, both historically in the academic literature, and more significantly on the ground in various neighborhoods, suburbs, and intersections within the metropolis.

This book has grown out of the work of the Religion in Urban America Program that was established by Lowell Livezey in Chicago in the early 1990s. I have been privileged and honored to play a very small part in the development of that project and to provide an international comparator in my own work in the British city of Birmingham. Over those twenty years we have witnessed a paradigm shift in the study of the city, and in the study of religion. In urban studies the focus has moved to the “global city,” “transnationalism,” “globalization” in one direction, and to the recognition of diversity, multiculturalism and, more recently, superdiversity in the other. In terms of religion, academic concerns have moved away from a focus on the world religions, secularization, and on Europe and the United States to more emphasis on everyday, or lived, religion, religious diversity, and the interaction between the secular and the religious. In this text we see both these paradigm shifts in action as Wedam and Numrich draw on an extensive range of theory, in both urban studies . . .

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