Indiana University Press publishes The Polis Center Series on Religion and Urban Culture, edited by David J. Bodenhamer and Arthur E. Farnsley II. The series’ goal is to make the ideas emerging from innovative projects on religion in American cities available to a wide audience.

Books from the Project on Religion and Urban Culture

Each book will interpret national or global issues as they are played out in real-life context of a specific city. By viewing broad social issues through the lens of local experience, we hope to illuminate the changing relationship between religion and contemporary urban culture in ways that are useful not only for scholars, but also for policy makers, clergy, social service and health care professionals, and the many others who deal daily with religion in its urban context.

Rising Expectations: Urban Congregations, Welfare Reform, and Civic Life

By Arthur E. Farnsley II

Rising Expectations examines the factors crucial to the success or failure of faith-based partnerships, by analyzing faith-based projects initiated in Indianapolis. Civic leaders are calling for a new role for faith-based groups, especially congregations, in public life—in building social capital, delivering social services, and spearheading community development. Partnerships among government, foundations, and the faith-community are innovative, and many appear to offer promise. However, many factors are crucial to the success or failure of these partnerships. Rising Expectations challenges many of the assumptions on which these reforms are based and offers a realistic assessment of what congregations can and cannot reasonably be expected to do.

Hardcover from $10.99.

Souls of the City: Metropolitan Growth and Religious Change in Postwar Indianapolis

By Etan Diamond

Souls of the City will analyze how Indianapolis congregations were shaped by the physical and social mobility that characterized the post-war metropolis. Indianapolis’s transformation from a small city in an otherwise rural county to a complex metropolis occurred precisely at the time that its religious landscape was transformed—from having a predominant mainline Protestant core to a more complex, multi-denominational congregational blend. How these trends were intertwined — and what that intertwining says about the nature of community life in the contemporary metropolis—will be explored in Souls of the City.

EBook $28.00

Sacred Circles, Public Squares: The Multicentering of American Religion

By Arthur E. Farnsley II; N.J. Demerath III; Etan Diamond; Mary L. Mapes; Elfriede Wedam

This study of the religious landscape of Indianapolis—the summative volume of the Lilly Endowment’s Project on Religion and Urban Culture conducted by the Polis Center at IUPUI — aims to understand religion’s changing role in public life. The book examines the shaping of religious traditions by the changing city. It sheds light on issues such as social capital and faithbased welfare reform and explores the countervailing pressures of “decentering”—the creation of multiple (sub)urban centers—and civil religion’s role in binding these centers into one metropolis.

A Public Charity: Religion and Social Welfare in Indianapolis, 1929-2002

By Mary L. Mapes

Using Indianapolis as its focus, this book explores the relationship between religion and social welfare. Arising out of the Indianapolis Polis Center’s Lilly-sponsored study of religion and urban culture, the book looks at three issues: the role of religious social services within Indianapolis’s larger social welfare support system, both public and private; the evolution of the relationship between public and private welfare sectors; and how ideas about citizenship mediated the delivery of social services.

Noting that religious nonprofits do not figure prominently in most studies of welfare, Mapes explores the historical roots of the relationship between religiously affiliated social welfare and public agencies. Her approach recognizes that local variation has been a defining feature of American social welfare. A Public Charity aims to illuminate local trends and to relate the situation in Indianapolis to national trends and events.

EBook $30.00

Falling Toward Grace: Images of Religion and Culture from the Heartland

Edited by J. Kent Calder & Susan Neville, Photography edited by Kim Charles Ferrill

The more mobile and rootless and virtual we become as a culture, the more we long for vital connections to the places in which we find  ourselves. Our restless and unruly souls seek connections with our communities and our environment, connections that technology and commerce have all but obliterated.  While we suffer from no lack of prospective guides offering to lead us in our search for answers, discerning truth and recognizing charlatans in this realm is not easy. The editors of this volume asked a distinguished group of Indiana writers and photographers to grapple with the issues of place and spirit. They focused their work on the connections, or lack thereof, between the seen and the unseen in Indianapolis–long considered a typical American city. The insights they offer are as varied as the backgrounds and perspectives represented in their essays, poems,and photographs, but they reflect an honest attempt to reach beyond the mundane and the superficial and to deal directly with the spirituality of one American city at the end of the twentieth century.

Hardcover from $10.46

Urban Tapestry

Edited by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, Photography by Kim Charles Ferrill

The Polis Center worked with a diverse group of citizens to develop Urban Tapestry, a book of stories and photographs. We were interested in stories that help define the life of the city of Indianapolis, its triumphs and failures. Indianapolis is often viewed as homogenous and conservative; yet racial conflict, ethnic diversity, economic disparity, technological change, and progressive political and religious groups are an integral part of our urban landscape. We hope this collection of personal narratives reflects the soul that animates this city. As well as publishing the book, we created forums at public libraries and other gathering places, where individuals could come to hear each other’s stories.

EBook $11.95

Voices of Faith: Making a Difference in Urban Neighborhoods

Introduction by David J. Bodenhamer, Photography by Kim Charles Ferrill

“Big Red the Wrestling Preacher” ministers to one of the poorer neighborhoods in Indianapolis. “A young man comes to me cold and I put a coat on his back. He comes to me hungry and I feed him. He can’t read and I find him a tutor. That’s hope. That’s empowerment.” Big Red’s is one of 26 voices in Voices of Faith: Making a Difference in Urban Neighborhoods. The book profiles ordinary people, professional and volunteer, whose service to their communities grows out of religious faith. Featuring striking portrait photography, Voices of Faith is published by The Polis Center as part of its Project on Religion and Urban Culture.

Paperback $19.95


Tyagan Miller

With an introductory essay by Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa, Covenant is, in the words of photographer Tyagan Miller, “a record of things seen and heard in uncommon circumstances, the view of life that underlies it, reflect[ing] the mutual aspiration of human beings everywhere.”

Culled from more than 4,000 images taken by Miller over a four-year period, the 93 photographs record the salient aspects of the life of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church on Indianapolis’s near west side—services, baptisms, weddings, funerals, social events, and portraits of the congregants. In accompanying interviews, congregants share their stories of miracles, seeing angels, losing a child, racism and brotherly love, and being young, black, and poor.