The public inquiry component emphasizes our commitment to asking and researching the
often-difficult questions relevant to both the public and to scholars of religion. Many of
our research questions are directly generated from our partnerships with public institutions
and community groups.
One important topic we are pursuing is the role religion plays in creating
"social capital"—the ties that bind us in community. Religion helps to create community
networks; contributes to a spirit of decency, order, and continuity in neighborhoods; and
helps incorporate new neighbors into the community. Few institutions of society serve these
functions on such a large scale.
Our approach employs multiple disciplines and a variety of tools, from gathering and
analyzing statistical data to observing in the field. Our partnerships with religious and
community groups afford us an unusual degree of access and opportunities for mutual
understanding. We hope to comprehend not only the larger forces at work—religious,
historical, social, economic, political—but to learn about the role individuals and
congregations play in sustaining communities.
Voices of Faith, published by The Polis Center and distributed by Indiana University Press,
profiles 26 individuals from the city’s neighborhoods. These are ordinary people whose
extraordinary service to their communities grows out of their religious faith.