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Faith & Community: The Public Role of Religion

Faith & Community: The Public Role of Religion
Religion as a Window on Culture
Faith and Community in Broad Ripple
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The Religious Landscape 

      America is religiously pluralistic although the pluralism varies from place to place. The place and status of religion has changed both in relation to the larger culture, and in relation to other religious traditions. The more established traditions continue to shape, and be shaped by a complex and changing religious landscape. America’s religious landscape includes not only a variety of world religions but also a mosaic of Christian traditions. This episode describes the rich opportunities and tremendous challenges for religious, civic, and government leaders.

Religion in Black & White 

      Nearly 90% of the congregations in most American cities have virtually no membership from a race other than their own. This reality contradicts a desire to honor diversity and obey tenets that seek unity of all God’s people. Intentional leadership, a visible and agreed upon strategy, and small group participation are all critical elements to any plan of racial integration. The diversity of religious beliefs and attitudes in America can create racial harmony as well as discord. Learn how a variety of leaders and communities are responding to the maxim that 11 o’clock on Sunday morning is the most segregated hour in America.

Faith-Based Partnerships 

      America’s civic and religious institutions have a long history of collaboration to provide social services. What do religious and civic leaders need to know about each other as they explore possible partnerships? Recently, public policy initiatives and civic debate have shed new light on these partnerships and have suggested an increased role for faith-based organizations in serving the public good. This segment explores the long history of these collaborations, guides our understanding of the difference between what congregations see as their mission and what other people sometimes see for them, and shows us what is new about faith-based initiatives.

The Role of Religion in Public Crisis 

      Faith communities have a lengthy history of anticipating and responding to public need in times of crisis. Exploring religious responses to the tragedies of 98-11 reminds us just how diverse these responses can be. Religious communities, in addition to being “publics” in and of themselves, also play public roles such as places to gather during a crisis and resources to provide material and spiritual support. Here, discover how public ministry is not only about public advocacy or social ministry, but can also be about the role a congregation and its members play in offering public space, public education, and public analysis.

The Public Role of Clergy 

      Shaped by historical and environmental forces, religion continues to be an important influence in American culture. What is the public role of today’s clergy? To understand the way religion functions in any community it is necessary to look beyond traditional clergy roles, labels, and historical assumptions. Has clergy’s influence diminished, or has it, like institutional influence, become more particular and less visible to a general public? America’s religious leaders perform a variety of public functions. In this segment learn how well prepared they are for these roles and how the expectations of congregations, government leaders, and public citizens shape these public roles.

Religion's Contribution of Social Leadership 

      Congregational members are frequently leaders in their neighborhood and local communities. In this segment determine how religious adherents are often the most active participants in civic boards, agencies and activities. Also examine the relationship between a congregant’s religious life and life as a public citizen. How, if at all, do they view the connection between their religious and civic activities? It is important to see public ministry not only as something the congregation does as an organization, but something it does indirectly by equipping leaders who work in other organizations. Discover the variety of ways in which congregations prepare children, youth and adults to become citizen leaders.

Religion's Role in Health Care 

      Religious congregations established many of America’s schools, hospitals and orphanages. How have these institutions retained their religious heritage, and what new institutions and movements are emerging from today’s faith communities? Religious involvement in healthcare is not only historic and institutional, but also part of contemporary ministries in “holistic” missions. From the largest health care provider in the city to the congregation-based parish nurse, how do religious attitudes and institutions shape and support modern health care? In this segment, see examples of faith-based health care initiatives and rediscover how religious history and practice strongly influence the delivery of social services. Consider what the future might hold for congregation-based clinics, parish nurses, and wellness programs.

Religion & Immigration 

      Religion is a bridge running both ways in the forming of immigration initiatives, which change the religious landscape of the community. Learn ways that faith communities continue to connect immigrants to their new, American home while also helping theme to preserve important aspects of their native culture. We will explore how immigrants bring their cultural traditions to existing congregations, establish their own ethnic congregations, or bring their religious traditions to the community at large. More than an exploration of religious practice, this segment will identify the opportunities and challenges for the larger culture in interacting with previously unknown (or less visible) religious cultures.

Models of Metropolitan Ministry 

      Many American congregations create metropolitan networks in a variety of ways, with an assortment of other congregations and institutions. There are different kinds of cooperative endeavors; among the more prominent are partnerships between urban and suburban congregations. Learn how some vital congregations are choosing the models best suited to their time and place. Every partnership is different and this segment will emphasize the importance of creating a model that is right for particular partners, not simply transferring a model from somewhere else.

Sacred Spaces 

      Religious influence is clearly visible in space and architecture of the most broadly public kind, such as War Memorials and Masonic cathedrals. This segment will examine the many sacred spaces of a city: land, buildings, monuments and public art. Sacred spaces shape our identity and reflect our values. Learn how creating, defining, and maintaining sacred spaces in a community can be enriching and sometimes controversial. We will closely examine religious influence on publicly accessible art and architecture asking and answering: How are these spaces and places being preserved? Where are they disappearing? Analyze the stories these places tell and the contemporary examples of religious art and architecture.

The Vitality of Religion 

      How vital is religion in your community, and in America? Listen to leading experts and ordinary citizens describe how they measure the vitality of religion in the United States. This segment will interview key Indianapolis civic, religious and academic leaders who will consider religion’s place in the city in light of The Polis Center’s long-term research. How influential are religious beliefs and practices in shaping the common good? What future roles doe these leaders imagine religion and religious institutions can and will play in shaping the public good?

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