Congregation and Community

Ammerman, Nancy Tatom and Arthur E. Farnsley. Congregation and Community. New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1997.

Author Nancy Ammerman develops Congregation and Community to address the multiple ways 23 Protestant congregations and Roman Catholic parishes in nine communities across the United States respond to significant cultural, economic and social/structural change within their surrounding community contexts. Chapter 1, “Congregation and Community: Introductions,” surveys the communities where the focus congregations are located, describes the local religious ecologies of the communities, and outlines the three broad dimensions used to analyze the congregations in the study: resources, structures of authority and the congregation’s culture. <p> Chapters 2 through 7 tell the stories of the twenty-three congregations, the changes they are facing and the strategies used to adjust to change. Chapter 2, “Persistence in the Face of Change,” looks at five congregations holding on to traditional patterns and practices in the face of cultural and social/structural change. Chapter 3, “Relocating: New Places, New Identities,” describes five other congregations responding to change by physical relocation or by highlighting an existing congregational identity. <p> Chapters 4, 5 and 6 underscore how nine congregations are intentionally adapting themselves to the changes their communities present. Chapter titles reveal their specific foci: “Adaptation: Integrating Gay and Straight” (Chapter 4); “Adaptation: Integrating across Cultures” (Chapter 5); and “Adaptation: Creating New Internal Structures” (Chapter 6). Chapter 7, “Innovation: Birth and Rebirth,” examines four congregations either born or reborn as a result of the changes their communities have experienced. <p> The book’s final two chapters offer general explanations for congregational change and concluding remarks about the nature of congregational life. Two appendices containing the study’s “focus questions” (Appendix A) and “congregational survey” (Appendix B), along with a selected bibliography, round out the book’s contents.