History of Indianapolis From a Religious Perspective: A Preliminary Report

History of Indianapolis From a Religious Perspective: A Preliminary Report. Presented to the American Society for Church History, Oberlin, OH. March 1994.

The “Preliminary Report” of the Polis Center’s History of Indianapolis from a Religious Perspective contains six presentations by project leaders before the annual meeting of the American Society for Church History held in Oberlin, Ohio in March 1994. Titles and presenters are: “The Making of a Research Project” by Edwin L. Becker and David J. Bodenhamer; “Methodology” by David G. Vanderstel; “Sources” by Michelle Hale; “Institutions: An Example” by William Dalton; “Religious Individuals” by Joseph M. White; and “Civic Culture and Religion in Indianapolis” by Connie J. Zeigler. <p> Becker and Bodenhamer briefly survey the facts leading to the development of the project and the reasons for choosing World War I-era Indianapolis to focus the study and test their key events strategy. Vanderstel describes the methods and procedures of the “key events strategy.” He defines the project as an interdisciplinary effort in the tradition of the “new religious history” stimulated by the activities of the Religion Society Network of the Social Science History Association. Hale outlines the wide range of traditional and non-traditional sources used to capture the interplay of religion and culture in Indianapolis for the period in question, some of which are general histories, congregational records, biographical sources, local newspapers, government documents and physical artifacts and building plants. <p> Dalton chooses the First Friends Church of Indianapolis to call attention to the reform and social service activities this prominent congregation directed both within and outside the city in the early 20th century. White briefly mentions several influential Indianapolis personalities who shaped early twentieth-century American religious life to argue that a study of selected individuals provides a larger interpretive framework for the project. Finally, Zeigler summarizes the three civic categories of artifacts, organizations/movements and public rhetoric used by the project to illuminate the interaction of civic and religious life in Indianapolis from 1908 to 1922.