Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Faith on the Avenue: Religion on a City Street

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Faith on the Avenue: Religion on a City Street

Article excerpt

Faith on the Avenue: Religion on a City Street. By Katie Day. (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014, pp. xiv, 247. $31.95.)

Once upon a time, some of the grander Episcopal churches in Manhattan were known as "avenue" churches, because their locations on the broad avenues allegedly signified their relative prominence over churches located on the narrower side streets. Katie Day, a professor of church and society at the Lutheran Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, shows how place matters to a congregation as well as faith: how a worshipping community affects and is affected by its location. The location Day selected was Germantown Avenue, a venerable street that runs 8.5 miles from the northwest boundary of Philadelphia almost to the Delaware River. When the study began in 2004, eighty-three congregations were identified; fourteen are discussed in detail in the book. No Roman Catholic churches or conventional Jewish synagogues happen to be located on the avenue (although there are some nearby), so these faiths are not included. Three types of churches are described. First, there are "historic" churches like the mother churches of two denominations, the Mennonites (1690) and the Brethren (1723) that are still found on the avenue. Day calls the second type "hermit crabs," because they are occupied by different denominations than the ones that built them; one building that began as a Presbyterian church is now home to a predominantly African-American congregation that preaches the "prosperity gospel." The third group of congregations are "recyclers," such as one congregation that made an abandoned furniture factory into a church. The last group is plentiful; thirty percent of the churches in the study were independent black congregations that met in formerly commercial buildings. The black and white photos by Edd Conboy, while somewhat grainy because of the printing process, effectively evoke the different types of churches. …

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