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Gentrification in LA: From the Religion and Civic Culture Blog

Check out the recent post from the Religion and Civic Culture blog on gentrification in the Los Feliz neighborhood of LA:

Last week I took a walk on the gentrifying edge of Los Feliz with the pastor of a local church that mainly ministers to the down-and-out. We talked about the urban landscape around us as we passed through city blocks in the midst of a transition–new people are moving in, others are moving out.

We stopped in front of a busy restaurant and watched well-dressed, well-heeled people enjoying lunch on an outdoor patio. Such a scene is hardly unusual in Los Angeles, but it was new for this neighborhood. The upscale eatery served as a timely example of the change the pastor was explaining to me. Ten years ago, “people were scared to come here,” he said. “Now on Sunday mornings they line up all the way down the block waiting in line for brunch.”

There was no sarcasm or animosity in his voice, but the stylish restaurant–offering “organic, local and small-farm produce” and boasting over 1,000 reviews on Yelp– served as visible proof of an evolution in the neighborhood that the pastor could feel almost day-by-day. As we stepped away from the restaurant he asked a question that will be important to our research for the Religious Competition and Creative Innovation (RCCI) project: “I wonder if our congregation will gentrify too?”

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The discussion of community change is a common one on the Studying Congregations blog. We frame the discussion in terms of a community’s ecology. While often the discussions are about what happens when congregants move from the city to the suburbs, or the suburbs to the ex-urbs, more and more the discussion now focuses on how urban areas are gentrifying and changing with young adults and families preferring to live close to the heart of a city. How does a congregation deal with the changing needs of the community, particularly if one doesn’t know what those needs are?

On our website, we have a number of suggestions. First, you can check out census information to better understand who lives in your neighborhood. Second, you can try a walking tour of your congregation’s neighborhood, examining what changes are happening and how you can minister to those in need. Third, you could visit some of the other congregations in your neighborhood to see what sorts of ministries and activities they have, and perhaps suggest joining forces for a larger community project.

Has your congregation undergone change because of a shift in the ecology or community surrounding your location? How has it affected your congregation? What has your congregation done to be proactive to reach out to new individuals? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

Ellen Childs
About the Author
Dr. Ellen Childs holds a Ph.D. in sociology from University of Notre Dame. She is Website Director at StudyingCongregations.org