Study of Religious Organizations and Activities in Urban America

Project Number: 
Start Date: 
Mon, 06/01/1992
End Date: 
Sun, 12/31/1995

Lowell W. Livezey and associates of the Office of Social Science Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago ethnographically mapped the aims and purposes of congregations and religious organizations of the Chicago Metropolitan Statistical Area that engage in urban ministry. The team sought to use this empirical study as a basis for typology of the purposes of religious programs in American cities across the nation.

Conducted under the auspices of the Religion in Urban America Program, the study divided Chicago metropolitan area into eight neighborhoods and selected several congregations and religious organizations from each area. From each neighborhood the study selected organizations so as to reflect religious, racial, and ethnic diversity. Researchers studied each organization interactively as a community of people and a social system, with its own internal logic, value structure, aims and purposes. The study held inter-organizational conferences among the organizations of a specific neighborhood after each of these organizational units had been researched individually. From these inter-organizational conferences the team developed a comprehensive profile of religious urban programs in the Chicago metropolitan area.

At the end of the first round of interviews and research into selected organizations, the study provisionally concluded that most of all, these organizations have served as mediators of, and to some degree, constructors of cultural identities for their members and the communities to which these belong. At later stages, the study moved from a broad theme of cultural identity and focused on seven problematic issues which each of these congregations and organizations engage with, namely: a. religious authority, b. urban geographical structure, c. economy, d. community, e. ethnicity and race, f. citizenship, and broadly, g. modernity.

The findings of the study were published through a separate grant in the book “Public Religion and American Transformation,” edited by the principal investigator, Lowell Livezey.