Public Religion and Urban Transformation: Faith in the City

by Lowell Livezey. New York University Press, 2000.

'Public Religion and Urban Transformation: Faith in the City' is an extraordinary product of the Lilly-funded RUAP (Religion in Urban America Program). Since the early ‘90s, RUAP has focused on understanding congregations and religious organizations in metropolitan Chicago and their roles in society. Housed at the University of Illinois at Chicago, RUAP complements a long history of urban studies of Chicago. Although there are nine contributors to the book, this entire decade-long research and writing project has been informed by review and discussion by many experts in the field and by participatory events such as the five “Neighborhood Forums on Religion in Chicago” in 1996 and 1997. Taking a “bottom-up” Chicago School sociological approach, the book is based largely on in-depth ethnographic studies of more than 75 diverse, mostly urban congregations in eight neighborhoods. The collection of fascinating essays is enriched by quotes and photos about selected neighborhood congregations and religious service organizations. It will alter how the reader thinks about “public religion” and the contributions of traditional and immigrant congregations in addressing – or not addressing – members’ and community needs and their attitudes and actions toward larger societal issues. The book is an obvious choice for religious and congregational studies and urban sociology programs. It also is valuable reading for any clergy or lay person interested in how contemporary urban religious collectives are shaped by – and help shape – the lives of their own members, surrounding communities and the larger society.