Religion and Community

The Changing Role of Clergy vol. 5, no. 2   (3/2001)

Trends in American culture are producing significant changes in the clergy. Many feel put in the position of managing a small business, rather than a being pastor. At the same time, schools of theology labor under the suspicion that they no longer attract the best and brightest students. The public realm has grown increasingly secular, and clergy no longer command the respect and authority they once did, neither as public figures nor as the leaders of their flocks. The average age of clergy is climbing, as is the age at which new candidates for the ministry are entering seminary. Training clergy within congregations is a growing trend, while charitable foundations pour considerable resources into attracting young people to the clergy.

Immigrant and Ethnic Congregations vol. 5, no. 1   (1/2001)

For generations, newly arrived settlers to Indianapolis have maintained their sense of community by reestablishing here the culture and religion of their homelands. In recent years, the city has received numerous immigrants from Asia, bringing religions unfamiliar to the American heartland—Sikhism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam. Numerous congregations in the city, Catholic and Protestant, now offer religious services in Spanish. Once, Indianapolis leaders chose to emphasize the city’s “all-American” character. Today, ethnic and religious diversity are recognized as elements that enrich the Indianapolis community. This issue includes an interview with Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America.

Congregations and Charitable Choice vol. 4, no. 5   (9/2000)

The Charitable Choice Provision of the Welfare Reform Act of 1996 enabled congregations to compete for federal dollars as providers of social services. For all the press that Charitable Choice has received, surveys show that few people in congregations are familiar with its provisions. Participation in Charitable Choice programs has been low so far, though this may change with the renewed emphasis on faith-based providers being promoted by the new administration in Washington. An article on the Front Porch Alliance examines a local effort to form partnerships between government and faith-based organizations. Another article, on the history of religion and social welfare in Indianapolis, argues that faith-based organizations have long played a primary role in creating local institutions to care for those in need.

Congregations and Economic Development vol. 4, no. 4   (6/2000)

Congregations have become an agent for economic growth, particularly in inner-city neighborhoods. More than 20 percent of Indianapolis congregations are involved in programs to provide long-term benefits to residents, including providing job-training and health services. In economic terms, the most important of these effort involves congregations directly engaged in developing housing for low-income residents. “Fresh Currents” looks at congregations that operate neighborhood businesses as a service to residents. “Congregations a Communities” examines the trend among larger congregations to become “full-service” communities for their members, providing not just religious services but recreation and other facilities.

Faith Based Youth Outreach Programs vol. 4, no. 3   (4/2000)

Bringing their youth into the community and tradition of the faith is a primary concern for most congregations. Sabbath school, recreation and social groups,and rites-of-passage classes prepare young people for adulthood and for participation in the congregation. Generally, these programs are aimed at the youth of the congregation itself. Of the approximately 1,200 congregations in the Indianapolis area, the vast majority conduct such programs.

Race and Religion in Indianapolis vol. 4, no. 2   (6/1999)

At about 22 percent, Indianapolis has a typical proportion of African-Americans for a city of its size. The city has been and continues to be composed primarily of a white majority and a significant black minority. Given the city’s history of formal segregation and Ku Klux Klan activity, racial differences are cast in rather stark relief—in religion as in other matters. In response to a Polis Center survey, Indianapolis pastors most often identified racism as the civic problem the religious community needed to confront. Most faiths promote the equality and fraternity of all believers, yet in practice religious congregations are among the most segregated of institutions. An article in this issue examines the history of the Pentecostal movement and race. Another looks at Celebration of Hope, a local effort at interfaith worship.

In Search of Belonging: The Hispanic Religious Presence in Indianapolis vol. 4, no. 1   (9/1998)

Hispanics, the fasting-growing group of immigrants in America, have only recently come to Indianapolis in significant numbers. Even today they may compose no more than two percent of the population and are widely dispersed around the city. These facts have shaped the culture of Hispanics in particular ways, including their patterns of worship.

Windows on Culture vol. 3, no. 3   (4/1998)

The poet Thomas Gray once wrote of “rich windows that exclude the light.” Just as often, windows offer a view on worlds that may be different from our own.

Place and Identity vol. 3, no. 2   (9/1997)

We all come from some place. What is authentic about us—our very identity—is inextricably bound up with the places we claim. One reason for this, suggests writer Eudora Welty, is that “place has a more lasting identity than we have, and we unswervingly attach ourselves to identity.”

Complex Relationships vol. 3, no. 1   (4/1997)

What is the relationship of churches, synagogues, and mosques to their neighborhoods? The Polis Center’s interest in these questions is more than academic. What we learn has important implications for public policy. Consider welfare reform. Is it true, as some people assume, that religious institutions are closely linked to their neighborhoods, thus allowing them to serve local human needs more effectively?

Religion and Social Capital vol. 2, no. 2   (9/1996)

In “Bowling Alone,” scholar Robert Putnam observes that we moderns are a disconnected lot. Isolation, not community, is the measure of our lives. We bowl alone today, whereas we once bowled in leagues. This change symbolizes the decline of social capital in America. The ties that bind us in community—social capital—are weaker now than in our past.

Creating Community vol. 2, no. 1   (4/1996)

How do we build and sustain community in a large city? Recently, over 400 participants discussed this question in a town and gown symposium hosted by The Polis Center. Academicians probed the various definitions of community, and local practitioners offered their experiences. Most instructive was the audience response: you can’t have community unless people rub shoulders with each other.

Public Teaching and Public Learning vol. 1, no. 2   (9/1995)

Indianapolis has a rich religious heritage. Various Polis projects have uncovered a wealth of information on the way religion has shaped the city—and how the city has influenced the experience and expression of religion. We want to share this story, and we want to learn more. We also want to involve a broader public, including the city’s faith communities, as partners in this process of teaching and learning. This subject is too important to remain solely or even primarily the province of scholars.

A Word About Polis vol. 1, no. 1   (6/1995)

The word “polis” is Greek for “city.” We at Polis focus primarily on doing work in, with, and about this city (and what that may say about other cities). You may recognize us as the creators of the recently published 1600-page Encyclopedia of  Indianapolis, which includes numerous entries on religion.