Sacred Companies: Organizational Aspects of Religion and Religious Aspects of Organizations

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Religion is intrinsically social, and hence irretrievably organizational, although organization is often seen as the darker side of the religious experience--power, routinization, and bureaucracy. Religion and secular organizations have long received separate scholarly scrutiny, but until now their confluence has been little considered. This interdisciplinary collection of mostly unpublished papers is the first volume to remedy the deficit. The project grew out of a three-year inquiry into religious institutions undertaken by Yale University's Program on Non-Profit Organizations and sponsored by the Lilly Endowment. The scholars who took part in this effort weree challenged to apply new perspectives to the study of religious organizations, especially that strand of contemporary secular organizational theory known as "New Institutionalism." The result was this groundbreaking volume, which includes papers on various aspects of such topics as the historical sources and patterns of U.S. religious organizations, contemporary patterns of denominational authority, the congregation as an organization, and the interface between religious and secular institutions and movements. The contributors include an interdisciplinary mix of scholars from economics, history, law, social administration, and sociology.
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Publisher
Oxford University Press
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Published on
Feb 12, 1998
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Pages
432
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ISBN
9780195354461
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Language
English
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Genres
Religion / Philosophy
Social Science / Sociology of Religion
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Homelessness, black neighborhood development, problems of abortion and sex education--how does religion affect the politics of an American city confronting these and other concerns? And what differences have "church and state" issues made in these struggles? In answering such questions, A Bridging of Faiths conveys a feeling of the urgent social theater of Springfield, Massachusetts, and provides both a contemporary and historical sense of how power shapes and is shaped by the civic culture. Recalling the immediacy and provocativeness of classic community studies like Middletown and Yankee City, the work draws on the voices of Springfielders themselves, while it exposes tendencies that prevail throughout contemporary America. This is a tale of two establishments: Protestant for three centuries, Springfield has been for the last fifty years a Catholic city. In looking at its emerging demographic, political, and economic patterns, the book shows how church and state interact at the local level, where lives are actually lived, as opposed to how the law and public opinion say they ought to interact at the more abstract federal level. While religion is more politically influential than some social scientists might have expected, it does not possess the kind of power feared by many constitutionalists. Politicians are seeking to redefine themselves in relation to religion and in other ways, and religion as a whole faces subtle crises of mobility, authority, and secularization. From these complexities, new patterns of cultural and political authority have emerged in Springfield, similar to those now affecting other American communities and the nation.

Originally published in 1992.

The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback and hardcover editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

More Americans belong to religious congregations than to any other kind of voluntary association. What these vast numbers amount to--what people are doing in the over 300,000 churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples in the United States--is a question that resonates through every quarter of American society, particularly in these times of "faith-based initiatives," "moral majorities," and militant fundamentalism. And it is a question answered in depth and in detail in Congregations in America.

Drawing on the 1998 National Congregations Study--the first systematic study of its kind--as well as a broad range of quantitative, qualitative, and historical evidence, this book provides a comprehensive overview of the most significant form of collective religious expression in American society: local congregations. Among its more surprising findings, Congregations in America reveals that, despite the media focus on the political and social activities of religious groups, the arts are actually far more central to the workings of congregations. Here we see how, far from emphasizing the pursuit of charity or justice through social services or politics, congregations mainly traffic in ritual, knowledge, and beauty through the cultural activities of worship, religious education, and the arts.

Along with clarifying--and debunking--arguments on both sides of the debate over faith-based initiatives, the information presented here comprises a unique and invaluable resource, answering previously unanswerable questions about the size, nature, make-up, finances, activities, and proclivities of these organizations at the very center of American life.





Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments

1. What Do Congregations Do?
2. Members, Money, and Leaders
3. Social Services
4. Civic Engagement and Politics
5. Worship
6. The Arts
7. Culture in Congregations, Congregations in Culture
8. Beyond Congregations

Appendix A: National Congregations Study Methodology
Appendix B: Selected Summary Statistics from the National Congregations Study
Notes
References
Index



Reviews of this book:
An unchurched observer might conclude that American congregational life centers on political or social service activities...[But] using his pioneering 1998 National Congregations Survey, the first study to delve into the specific activities of a truly representative sampling of the nation's religious congregations, [Chaves] finds that politics and service programs are not the main draws. Indeed, most congregations put little effort into community work...What congregations are most engaged in, Chaves reveals, are cultural activities. That includes education and the many components of worship, of course, but also the generally less-remarked-upon activities of producing and consuming art and culture, particularly musical and theatrical performances, outside of worship.
--Jay Tolson, U.S. News and World Report
Explores the role of race and consumer culture in attracting urban congregants to an evangelical church The Urban Church Imagined illuminates the dynamics surrounding white urban evangelical congregations’ approaches to organizational vitality and diversifying membership. Many evangelical churches are moving to urban, downtown areas to build their congregations and attract younger, millennial members. The urban environment fosters two expectations. First, a deep familiarity and reverence for popular consumer culture, and second, the presence of racial diversity. Church leaders use these ideas when they imagine what a “city church” should look like, but they must balance that with what it actually takes to make this happen. In part, racial diversity is seen as key to urban churches presenting themselves as “in touch” and “authentic.” Yet, in an effort to seduce religious consumers, church leaders often and inadvertently end up reproducing racial and economic inequality, an unexpected contradiction to their goal of inclusivity. Drawing on several years of research, Jessica M. Barron and Rhys H. Williams explore the cultural contours of one such church in downtown Chicago. They show that church leaders and congregants’ understandings of the connections between race, consumer culture, and the city is a motivating factor for many members who value interracial interactions as a part of their worship experience. But these explorations often unintentionally exclude members along racial and classed lines. Indeed, religious organizations’ efforts to engage urban environments and foster integrated congregations produce complex and dynamic relationships between their racially diverse memberships and the cultivation of a safe haven in which white, middle-class leaders can feel as though they are being a positive force in the fight for religious vitality and racial diversity. The book adds to the growing constellation of studies on urban religious organizations, as well as emerging scholarship on intersectionality and congregational characteristics in American religious life. In so doing, it offers important insights into racially diverse congregations in urban areas, a growing trend among evangelical churches. This work is an important case study on the challenges faced by modern churches and urban institutions in general.
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