People of the Dream

People of the Dream: Multiracial Congregations in the United States

Michael O. Emerson
with Rodney M. Woo
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    People of the Dream
    Book Description:

    It is sometimes said that the most segregated time of the week in the United States is Sunday morning. Even as workplaces and public institutions such as the military have become racially integrated, racial separation in Christian religious congregations is the norm. And yet some congregations remain stubbornly, racially mixed.People of the Dreamis the most complete study of this phenomenon ever undertaken. Author Michael Emerson explores such questions as: how do racially mixed congregations come together? How are they sustained? Who attends them, how did they get there, and what are their experiences? Engagingly written, the book enters the worlds of these congregations through national surveys and in-depth studies of those attending racially mixed churches. Data for the book was collected over seven years by the author and his research team. It includes more than 2,500 telephone interviews, hundreds of written surveys, and extensive visits to mixed-race congregations throughout the United States.

    People of the Dreamargues that multiracial congregations are bridge organizations that gather and facilitate cross-racial friendships, disproportionately housing people who have substantially more racially diverse social networks than do other Americans. The book concludes that multiracial congregations and the people in them may be harbingers of racial change to come in the United States.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3770-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Prelude Decision
    (pp. 1-4)

    As I drive westward from the center of Houston down Bellaire Boulevard, I cannot but help notice the transitions. Passing through a white neighborhood that gives way to a predominately Latino neighborhood, I am presented with yet another change. The names of businesses, the street signs, even the requisite “First Month Free” banners on the apartment complexes are in Mandarin Chinese and Vietnamese lettering. Houston’s new Asiatown announces itself in large and small ways. In the typical Houston sprawling fashion, this Asiatown stretches for miles in a bewildering series of strip malls and stand-alone buildings, many in varying Asian architectural...

  5. Chapter One Dreams
    (pp. 5-27)
    Michael O. Emerson and Edward J. Blum

    This book is an in-depth study of contemporary multiracial religious congregations. Its goal is to both understand religious life in the United States, and learn something about the future of race relations in the United States. “Sunday morning is the most segregated hour of the week.” This quip, or some version of it, is said so often that it seems many people have become numb to it. I have never been able to verify who first said it. Some say Martin Luther King; others attribute it to people much before his time. The saying’s meaning—that people are most racially...

  6. Chapter 2 Distinctive
    (pp. 28-46)

    Multiracial congregations in the United States are highly unusual. In this chapter, I consider how common such congregations are, which faith traditions are more likely to include multiracial congregations, and reasons for why some congregations are multiracial.

    In the congregations my colleagues and I studied, effective, committed leadership was essential for thriving as a multiracial congregation. Often this leadership started with the senior clergy members of the congregations, typically individuals with the background and experiences that make them desire a multiracial congregation and provided them with the necessary tools to lead. But it also takes a willing congregation. The story...

  7. Chapter 3 Paths
    (pp. 47-73)

    Given their rarity, how do multiracial congregations come to be? In this chapter I explore what key factors are associated with racial diversity in congregations. I begin by examining traits of more than 1,200 randomly selected U.S. congregations. This provides us a good overview but does not tell us much about the process of becoming a multiracial congregation. For a better understanding of that process, we turn to the thirty congregations that my colleagues and I studied in depth and explore the paths these congregations took to becoming what they are. And then, to give a more detailed, inside view...

  8. Chapter 4 Folk
    (pp. 74-104)

    Who are the people in multiracial congregations? How did they get there? Are they different from those attending uniracial congregations and from other Americans? As suggested in the last chapter, it takes more than paid staff to transform a congregation. It takes people identifying with, supporting, and making the vision their own. It takes people to give life to the vision. This chapter begins by examining the experiences of three members of Wilcrest, three men whose life stories are quite divergent.¹ For different reasons, all three ended up in Houston, at Wilcrest, and through their membership, became close friends. The...

  9. Chapter 5 Attractions
    (pp. 105-130)

    Most Americans, when they leave the public sphere of work and school, go home to neighborhoods that are filled mostly with people that are racially like themselves. They get together with their friends, who are almost always the same race as them. And for the many Americans who attend worship services, in houses of worship the people gathering with them are racially the same as them. It is in this sense that we have Five Americas, Five Melting Pots, and Five Americans.¹

    The Sixth Americans would seem to represent, at least in part, a realization of Dr. Martin Luther King,...

  10. Chapter 6 Shadows
    (pp. 131-157)

    After Wilcrest had been demographically a multiracial congregation for about eight years, a special service was held to ordain seven new deacons.¹ This service was special because new deacons had been ordained only twice before in the past eight years, and because this was the most racially diverse group of new deacons ever at Wilcrest.

    During the planning of the service, the staff wanted to communicate the importance of the ordination through reverent and sacred worship. The ordering of the service was planned, and the music was carefully selected. During this worship service, an African American woman by the name...

  11. Chapter 7 Momentum
    (pp. 158-172)

    The three years at Wilcrest leading up to Dr. Woo’s tenth anniversary as senior pastor were covered with shadows. Except for Dr. Woo, for one reason or another, all the staff members left. As the congregation searched for replacements, Dr. Woo and the Wilcrest members attempted to do the work of multiple staff members. This was draining for Dr. Woo. He felt abandoned and confused. It had been an uphill battle to realize Wilcrest’s vision, and the growth of Wilcrest’s racial diversity had seemed to stall. Finding the right staff replacements who had the commitment and ability to serve in...

  12. Appendix A Shifting Visions: A Brief History of Metaphors for U.S. Race and Ethnic Relations
    (pp. 173-193)
  13. Appendix B Statistical Tables
    (pp. 194-199)
  14. Appendix C Methodology
    (pp. 200-208)
  15. Appendix D Instruments
    (pp. 209-244)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 245-256)
  17. Index
    (pp. 257-261)