is the premier resource for understanding religious congregations in the United States. A collaborative project of leading scholars in the fields of sociology of religion, history, and practical theology, the strategies, resources and tools you will discover on this site have been designed specifically for religious leaders of all kinds, students, theological educators, and anyone else who wants to discover what is happening in religious gatherings today.

– Nancy T. Ammerman
Project Director

Our Partners

This resource was first developed by the Congregational Studies Team whose work was generously funded by the Lilly Endowment, Inc.

This resource is hosted by the Center for Practical Theology at Boston University School of Theology. We are grateful for the Center’s ongoing support of this project.

Congregational Studies Team

About the Team

The Congregational Studies Team was an informal research group that led the way in researching US congregations. Founded in 1982, the team met a few times each year for discussion of common projects and for mutual professional support. The group published three books: Building Effective Ministry (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983), the Handbook for Congregational Studies (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1986) and Studying Congregations: A New Handbook (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1998). In addition to being used by students of congregations throughout the US, Studying Congregations has been adapted for use in southern Africa and published in Korean. In addition to team-produced books, team members, in various combinations, have contributed dozens of books and articles that form a central body of research on American congregations. The team’s work was supported by the Lilly Endowment, Inc. and other foundations.

Jackson W. Carroll
Carl Dudley (1932-2009)
Bill McKinney
Loren B. Mead (1930-2018)
Barbara G. Wheeler
James F. Hopewell (1929-1984)

Additional Members

The following scholars were a part of the Congregational Studies Team during its lifetime.

Nancy T. Ammerman
Anthea Butler
Rebecca Chopp
Penny Edgell
Nancy Eiesland (1964-2009)
Lawrence H. Mamiya (1942-2019)
Gerardo Marti
Omar McRoberts
Joyce Ann Mercer
James Nieman
Robert Schreiter (1947-2021)
R. Stephen Warner
Jack Wertheimer
Ardith Hayes
Bill Hamilton-Holway
Mary C. Mattis
Engaged Fellowship Program (2005-2015)

From 2005-2015, supported by a major grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., the Congregational Studies Team offered annual Fellowships to support rising scholars who explored local communities of faith in North America. These 18-month fellowships included research support and mentoring.

Scholars in a variety of disciplines — from practical theology to the social sciences, from history to religious studies — engaged in projects that involved learning from and about living communities of faith in the United States, Canada, and beyond. They have published widely from that work, expanding what we know about congregational life, and they have actively made their work available directly to communities of faith. These scholars are now among the leaders in studying congregations. You should watch for their work.

The Fellows

Orit Avishai

Orit Avishai’s 2010-11 project focused on the role of congregations in faith-based marriage education. She is now Professor of Sociology at Fordham University. An ethnographer, Avishai has written extensively on gender, marriage, and sexuality, especially in Orthodox Judaism. Her latest book is Queer Judaism: LGBT Activism and the Remaking of Jewish Orthodoxy in Israel.

Tobin Belzer

Tobin Belzer’s 2007-08 project involved exploring the “Mission Minyan,” a progressive and innovative gathering of young adult Jews in San Francisco. She is an applied sociologist specializing in contemporary American Jewry. Belzer is a contributing fellow at the Center for Religion and Civic Culture at the University of Southern California.

The Rev. Dr. Moses O. Biney

The Rev. Dr. Moses O. Biney’s 2014-15 project focused on second-generation African immigrants in congregations founded by first-generation immigrants. He is now Associate Professor of Religion and African Diaspora Studies at New York Theological Seminary and in 2022 was elected moderator of the Conference of Ghanaian Presbyterian Churches. He is the author of From Africa to America: Religion and Adaptation among Ghanaian Immigrants in New York.

Kraig Beyerlein

Kraig Beyerlein’s 2007-08 project focused on the role of congregations in the humanitarian work of aiding migrants crossing the Sonoran Desert. He is now Associate Professor of Sociology and Director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society at Notre Dame University. He is especially interested congregation-based mobilization for civic activism and has published articles in a wide array of major journals, including his 2019 co-authored lead article in Social Problems, “Citizenship, Religion, and Protest: Explaining Differential Participation of Latinos in the 2006 Immigrant Rights Marches.”

The Rev. Dr. Christopher Brittain

The Rev. Dr. Christopher Brittain’s 2009-10 project explored how the global dispute within Anglicanism has impacted congregational life in an Episcopalian diocese at the heart of the crisis in the United States. He is now Dean of Divinity and Margaret E. Fleck Chair in Anglican Studies at Trinity College, University of Toronto. His most recent book is The Anglican Communion at a Crossroads: The Crises of a Global Church (with Andrew McKinnon).

Tricia Bruce

Tricia Bruce’s 2010-11 project examined “personal” (non-territorial) parishes in the U.S. Catholic Church. She is an applied researcher whose recent report, “How Americans Understand Abortion,” was recognized by the Religious Research Association with the Outstanding Applied Research Award. Tricia has continued to study changes in American Catholicism and is an affiliate of Notre Dame University’s Center for the Study of Religion and Society.

William Clark

William Clark’s 2006-07 project focused on the processes of “parish reconfiguration” in three Roman Catholic dioceses in New England. He is a theologian, a Roman Catholic priest, and a Jesuit, with a continuing interest in ecclesiology. He serves as Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the College of the Holy Cross. In 2021, he published A Theology of the Parish: The Face of the Church in Challenging Times.

Lynne Gerber

Lynne Gerber’s 2010-11 project addressed the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic on the congregational life of the Metropolitan Community Church of San Francisco (MCCSF), a church that was in the geographic, social and theological center of the crisis. Lynne is an independent scholar who looks at the entanglements of religion, the body, and morality. Her 2011 book, Seeking the Straight and Narrow: Weight Loss and Sexual Reorientation in Evangelical America has been joined in 2021 by her co-edited volume Fat Religion: Protestant Christianity and the Construction of the Fat Body.

Sascha Goluboff

Sascha Goluboff’s 2008-09 project focused on understanding congregants loyalty to their “home church” in terms of American racial politics, African American kinship practices and Black Christian narratives of worldly and otherworldly salvation. She is Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Washington and Lee University. Her work focuses on the anthropology of emotion in a variety of geographical and historical contexts, and she published “Making African American Homeplaces in Rural Virginia” in the journal Ethos in 2011.

Leah Gunning Francis

Leah Gunning Francis’s [2012-13] project focused on the necessary reimagining of Christian Education needed to support the thriving of middle-class Black boys who face daily risks in a hostile culture. In 2023, she moved from her position as Dean of the Faculty at Christian Theological Seminary to become Senior Vice President and Chief Mission and Values Officer for Indiana University Health. She is also the author of Faith After Ferguson: Resilient Leadership in Pursuit of Racial Justice.

Brett Hoover

Brett Hoover’s 2012-13 project was an in-depth examination of shared parishes, that is, a single parish with multiple cultural groups each with distinct Masses and ministries. His findings were published in 2014 in The Shared Parish: Latinos, Anglos, and the Future of U.S. Catholicism. He is now Associate Professor of Practical/Pastoral Theology at Loyola Marymount University. His most recent book is Immigration and Faith: Cultural, Biblical, and Theological Narratives.

Anita Houck

Anita Houck’s 2005-06 project examined ministries that address single life in contemporary congregations, and she reported on her work in the journal Human Development, in 2007. She is Professor of Religious Studies and Theology at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana. With Mary Doak, she edited Translating Religion.

Kathleen Jenkins

Kathleen Jenkins’s 2006-07 project examined the challenges and issues faced by congregations concerned with helping people who are divorced and uncoupled. Her book based on this research was published in 2014 as Sacred Divorce: Religion, Therapeutic Culture, and Ending Life Partnerships. She is Professor of Sociology at William and Mary.

Russell Jeung

Russell Jeung is Professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University and a widely-cited expert on anti-Asian American hate. His 2005-06 project examined both the possible future development of historic Chinatown churches and a comparison of Cambodian Buddhist and Christian congregations, particularly looking at how religion itself offers spiritual capital that the youth mobilize for educational attainment. With Carolyn Chen, he edited Sustaining Faith Traditions: Race, Ethnicity, and Religion among the Latino and Asian American Second Generation (2012).

Rebecca Kim

Rebecca Kim is the Frank R. Seaver Professor in Social Science, and Professor of Sociology at Pepperdine University. Her 2008-09 project was a study of Korean missionaries who are planting churches in the U.S. Her 2015 book, The Spirit Moves West: Korean Missionaries in America, expanded on that project.

Miranda Klaver

Miranda Klaver is an anthropologist and theologian, whose 2013-14 project focused on Hillsong congregations in Amsterdam and New York, looking at new ways to imagine the nature of community, leadership, and authority. She is Professor of Religion and Theology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Her most recent book is Hillsong Church: Expansive Pentecostalism, Media, and the Global City.

Lance D. Laird

Lance D. Laird’s 2008-09 project focused on the “religious health assets” of two predominantly Black (African-American and African immigrant) congregations, one mosque and one church, in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston. He is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine and in the Graduate Division of Religious Studies at Boston University. His most recent article, with Samsiah Abdul-Majid, published in Journal of Religion and Health, is “Muslim Chaplains in the Clinical Borderlands: Authority, Function, and Identity.”

Arlene Macdonald

Arlene Macdonald’s 2014-15 research was an ethnographic study of three prominent Sikh gurdwaras in Brampton, Ontario, to better understand the role of congregations in the pursuit of religious and health equality on the part of religious minorities. She is an assistant professor at the Institute for the Medical Humanities, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston. She has expanded on that research in her 2020 article in Social Science & Medicine, “The Case of the Guru Nanak Emerigency Services Department: Sikh Therapeutic Geographies.”

Gerardo Marti

Gerardo Marti is William R. Kenan Professor of Sociology at Davidson College. As a 2005-06 engaged scholar, he focused on worship music and the manner in which congregational music helps or hinders ethnic and racial diversification. He has published extensively on the culture of  megachurches and on race and religion, including American Blindspot: Race, Class, Religion, and the Trump Presidency.

Margarita Mooney Clayton

Margarita Mooney Clayton’s 2009-10 project allowed her to take her research findings, published in Faith Makes Us Live: Surviving and Thriving in the Haitian Diaspora, to two of her fieldsites, Montreal and Miami to speak to the congregations she studied. Her current work is in the philosophy of social science, aesthetics, and the role of Christianity in the liberal arts tradition.

Géraldine Mossière

Géraldine Mossière is Associate Professor in the Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies at the Université de Montréal. Her 2012-13 project focused on the role of congregations in shaping the lives of African immigrant youth in Quebec, looking especially at the role of music and dance. She has continued to study Pentecostal and Muslim communities in Quebec, as well as more innovative spiritual practitioners. Her most recent article, with Isabelle Kostecki, in Studies in Religion, is “Bricoleurs de rites et artistes-ritualistes au Québec: figures de proue d’un régime religieux en émergence.”

Arlene M. Sánchez-Walsh

Arlene M. Sánchez-Walsh is Professor of Religious Studies at Azusa Pacific University. Her 2006-07 project looked at 3 different Latino evangelical groups and how they promoted a transdenominational reality.  Her first book, Latino Pentecostal Identity: Evangelical Faith, Self, and Society, won the Hispanic Theological Initiative’s Book Award in 2005. Broadening her scope across the history of the movement in the U.S., in 2018, she published Pentecostals in America.

Christine Sheikh

Christine Sheikh is a member of the Faculty of Sociology at Metropolitan State University of Denver. She focuses on American Islam, with particular interest in race/ethnicity, generational transformations, and gender. Her 2009-10 project focused on race and ethnicity in multiethnic Muslim congregations.

Magdalena Szaflarski

Magdalena Szaflarski is a medical sociologist specializing in religion and health, with a particular focus on HIV/AIDS. She is Associate Professor of Sociology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her 2014-15 project furthered the work of community-engaged research into the role of congregations, especially in the African American community, in HIV/AIDS education and prevention. Among her many publications in this area is her 2021 article in the Journal of Religion & Spirituality in Social Work, “Health Programming Priorities among Faith Communities in Jefferson County, Alabama.”

Jenny Trinitapoli

Jenny Trinitapoli [2007-08] is Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago. She studies the intersection of HIV, religion, and adulthood, with longstanding research in Malawi. Her 2007-08 project allowed her to translate her research on Malawi for congregations in the U.S. that are interested in Africa. Her most recent book, An Epidemic of Uncertainty: Navigating HIV and Young Adulthood in Malawi, documents her continuing research there.

Maria Van Ryn

Maria Van Ryn’s 2013-14 project explored how an interfaith youth program has lessons for understanding how congregations can contribute to the formation of adolescent religious identity. Before her untimely death in 2019, Ria had taught at Yeshiva University in New York and in the St. Louis, Missouri, public schools.

Heather White

Heather White’s 2013-14 project used oral history and archival methods to recover a detailed history of the relationships between a particular congregation, Episcopal leaders and laity, and the gay activists who met at New York’s Church of the Holy Apostles throughout the formative years of the Gay Rights movement. The resulting book, Reforming Sodom: Protestants and the Rise of Gay Rights, was published in 2015. Heather is an Assistant Professor in Religious Studies at the University of Puget Sound.

Roman Williams

Roman Williams worked with the Congregational Studies Team as a Special Fellow in 2015, developing and testing visual study methods. Roman is an independent consultant and directs Interfaith Photovoice. He also edited Seeing Religion: Toward a Visual Sociology of Religion.