Communities Within Community: The Birth of a Contemporary “Religious District”

Posted on May 12, 2015 by PLT Staff

Paper presented by Omar McRoberts at the third meeting of the Lived Theology and Community Building Workgroup in Los Angeles, California. McRoberts describes his ethnographic study of the religious activity in Four Corners, a poor, predominantly black neighborhood in Boston, Massachusetts. He provides the historic origins of the multiplicity of religious organizations in the area, and discusses the effects of multiple religious groups on the Four Corners community as a whole.

Excerpt: “So the communities that congeal inside these churches are not melting pots, mixing people across lines of class, national origin, ethnicity, or race. They are not ‘beloved communities’ where the task of interracial and interethnic reconciliation takes top priority. Rather, they tend to be homogeneous social spaces where people affirm those things that make them different from others in the cosmopolitan urban context. In other words, most of these churches are places where particularities are celebrated and perpetuated…. My observations suggest that if churches do not respond to calls for increased neighborhood activism and local community-building, it may not be because of an allergy to ecumenism and worldly activity. Rather, churches may fail to respond because of the general tendency of congregations to delocalize their religious activity and think of community in nongeographic terms.”

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