Research Notes 1997-2001

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Research Notes by The Polis Center provided a forum for discussing scholarly issues as part of the Project on Religion and Urban Culture. This newsletter was intended for people with an interest in substantive issues about the role of religion in the urban culture of Indianapolis and other American cities.

This newsletter was published from February 1997 to April 2001. Each issue has a topical title.


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 10 of 18
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    The final issue of Research Notes hosted a special roundtable discussion at The Polis Center, inviting researchers involved in the Project on Religion and Urban Culture to discuss what has been learned in the preceding five years of the Project.
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    An Analysis of Congregational Programs
    (2001-02) Quern, Susannah R.; Parks, Dawn L.
    How are congregations currently involved in providing social services? Does charitable choice make a difference? Our analysis describes the program activities of 400 congregations in 17 urban and suburban neighborhoods. While our census grouped programs into six categories, worship services into four categories, and events into seven categories, for purposes of analysis, we have collapsed these activities into two broader categories: religious programs and social outreach programs.
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    Indianapolis Clergy: Private Ministries, Public Figures
    (2000-11) Mirola, William A.
    As religious and community leaders, clergy have joined the political battles over slavery, Prohibition, civil rights, the anti-war movement, and abortion. Recently, The Polis Center sponsored a telephone survey to explore the role clergy play in shaping community life in Indianapolis, and the extent of their involvement in neighborhood and city affairs. City residents were sampled to compare their views of clergy with how the clergy viewed themselves. In general, we found that Indianapolis clergy see themselves as having more influence in civic affairs than residents perceive them as having.
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    The Mosaic of Black Religion in Indianapolis
    (2000-09) Wedam, Elfriede
    Using the categories devised by Robert Franklin, we examined an array of worship styles and social-political stances among approximately 100 African-American congregations in Indianapolis. We found little evidence of the radical activist engagement that was once identified with black churches. However, new styles of social and political engagement are beginning to emerge. Franklin's categories range from grassroots revivalists, who focus on personal salvation and individual responsibility, to prophetic radicals, who critique the basic economic and political structures of American society. The issue includes a roundtable discussion featuring scholars Elfriede Wedam, Ron Sommerville, and Joseph Tamney.
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    Religious Attitudes in Indianapolis: A Survey
    (2000-05) Mirola, William A.
    Since 1995, the Polis Center has been engaged in exploring the ways that religious organizations and people of faith shape community life in Indianapolis. In studying seventeen neighborhoods around the metro area, we have collected detailed information about the religious beliefs and practices of residents. There are several important questions that this project is interested in answering. What do Indianapolis residents think about the role of religion in this community? What do they believe about the priorities of religious groups; about the overall influence of the religious leaders in this city? What role do they see for congregations and religious leaders in making the city a better place to live? How do their religious beliefs affect their personal decisions? Roundtable discussion follows essay.
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    What Do You Mean By Average?
    (2000-03) Farnsley, Arthur E. II
    If we expect congregation to assume a larger role in providing public services, we must begin with realistic expectations, based on a fair accounting of the enormous breadth and variety among congregations as organizations. We can accurately describe the mean and median sizes of congregational memberships and budgets in Indianapolis, but the numbers require interpretation. The majority of congregations are smaller and have less money than early studies would lead us to believe. The top tier of congregations—the largest one-fifth—have a very large share of the members and control a very large share of the money. In some urban neighborhoods the single largest congregation accounts for as much as 90 percent of all social service spending by congregations. Only 20 percent of congregations actually spend as much on social services as the mean-average. When only one-fifth of a group is "average" or above, there is something misleading about the term. Roundtable discussion follows essay.
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    Religion and Mobility in 20th Century Indianapolis
    (1999-12) Diamond, Etan
    Religious commuting—the act of driving to church in another neighborhood or even on the other side of the city—has been part of the metropolitan experience since the early 20th century. Surveys have consistently shown that people willingly drive past nearby congregations to attend one they prefer farther away. Such patterns of religious mobility challenge common perceptions that congregations are—or should be—locally oriented. Nevertheless, religious commuting can help to foster a sense of metropolitan connectedness, as people drive through other parts of the city to attend worship.
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    Ethno-Racial Diversity within Indianapolis Congregations
    (1999-08) Wedam, Elfriede
    More than forty years after the civil rights movement began to mobilize against racial segregation, religious congregations continue to reflect the segregation Americans experience in their voluntary associations in general. Diversity in public institutions does not translate easily into diversity within voluntary associations. Diversity in congregations is created by the combined effect of the congregation’s neighborhood context—its racial, ethnic, and class makeup—and the kinds of choices congregations make in response to the challenge of diversity. Most important is a conscious decision to be diverse. The stories of these congregations point to new ways of thinking about pluralism in voluntary associations generally. Roundtable discussion follows essay.
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    Religion and Social Welfare in 20th Century Indianapolis
    (1999-06) Mapes, Mary
    What is most striking about faith-based social welfare in the 20th century is not its decline but its continued presence. Despite the widespread fears of many that an expanded welfare state would result in a less vibrant civil society, the policies initiated by the public welfare sector often had the effect of helping buttress the voluntary sector even as they guaranteed a dominant role for the public sector. In Indianapolis, public agencies often frequently enlarged their responsibility for social welfare by cooperating with faith-based agencies. The history of the relationship between public social welfare agencies and private voluntary organizations suggests that, in Indianapolis at least, the voluntary or independent sector has never been completely independent; neither has the welfare state overtaken the voluntary sector. Roundtable discussion follows essay.
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    Faith and Place: Religion and the Metropolis in Historical Perspective
    (1999-04) Diamond, Etan
    Until the middle of this century, people’s conceptions of proximity and distance were closely correlated. Things physically nearby were perceived as “close,” while physically distant places were “far.” But changes in transportation and communication technology changed this dynamic. The metropolis is now structured around time, rather than distance. For congregations, this represents a dramatic shift. What does it mean to have a congregation that is geographically scattered yet still feels some tie to a church? What does “neighborhood ministry” mean when metropolitan growth has transformed the neighborhood into something much larger? How can you define “community” when you can’t physically see it? Roundtable discussion follows essay.
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