Background & General Resources

Working with our outreach partner, The Alban Institute, we have developed this extensive collection of resources to let you continue your exploration of congregational life in America. The Alban Institue is an ecumenical, interfaith organization founded in 1974, which supports congregations through consulting services, research, book publishing, and educational seminars.

These resources are drawn from the Congregational Resource Guide,, which was developed by The Alban Institute and the Indianapolis Center for Congregations. The guide includes hundreds of additional resources to help congregational leaders gain insight into problems and to encourage transformation in their communities of faith.

A Field Guide to U.S. Congregations: Who's Going Where and Why (book).
Deborah Bruce, and Cynthia Woolever. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2002.
Beyond the Ordinary: 10 Strengths of US Congregations (book).
Deborah Bruce. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2004.
These guides provide an overview of congregations. They are based on the results of the U.S. Congregations Survey (, which profiles worshipers and their congregations. Other statistical research results are available through the Faith Communities Today study conducted by the Hartford Seminary, Hartford, CT ( and the National Study of Youth and Religion ( being conducted at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC.

American Congregations: Portraits of Twelve Religious Communities, America (book).
James W. Lewis, and James P. Wind, editors. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1994.
Drawn from a large sampling of congregations, this book offers accounts from scholars in the congregational studies movement as revealed in Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist traditions.

American Muslims: The New Generation (book).
Asma Gull Hasan. New York, NY: Continuum International Publishing Group Inc., 2000.
A first-hand account of how American-born Muslims are integrating the traditions of their immigrant families with American culture.

Bumping into God: 35 Stories of Finding Grace in Unexpected Places (book).
Dominic Grassi. Chicago, IL: Loyola Press, 1999.
A light hearted collection of experiences within Roman Catholic parishes throughout the United States.

Congregation: The Journey Back to Church (book).
Gary Dorsey. New York, NY: The Penguin Books, USA, Inc., 1995.
A documentary about a reporter's year of spiritual discovery in a New England Congregational Church.

Dakota: A Spiritual Geography (book).
Kathleen Norris. New York, NY: Houghton Mifflin, 1993.
A delightful account of rediscovering and returning to church as a mid-western new comer.

Excellent Catholic Parishes: The Guide to Best Places and Practices (book).
Paul Wilkes. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2001.
This book explores how eight parishes successfully met their unique challenges, which ranged from a shortage of priests to inner-city crime.

Finding a Spiritual Home: How a New Generation of Jews Can Transform the American Synagogue (book).
Rabbi Sidney Schwartz. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights, 2003.
Profiles of synagogue leaders and their congregations in each of the four major movements of Judaism are presented, as well as a discussion of the latest developments in synagogue change projects.

Muslim Life in America (website).
U.S. Department of State International Information Programs.
Provides information on how Islam is practiced in the United States and within American Culture.

Pillars of Islam: An Introduction to the Islamic Faith (book).
Frances Gumley, and Brian Redhead. London, England: BBC Publications, 1993.
Provides a comprehensive overview of Islam and its historical roots.

A Mosque in Massachusetts (article).
Diana L. Eck. U.S. Department of State's Bureau of International Information Programs, February 2004.
An account of how an Islamic community celebrates and grows in a Massachusetts town.

Open Secrets: A Memoir of Faith and Discovery (book).
Richard Lischer. New York, NY: Double Day, 2001.
The story of a new pastor assigned to a conservative church in south Illinois.

Strength for the Journey: A Pilgrimage of Faith in Community (book).
Diana Butler Bass. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2002.
A quest for meaningful faith shared in a faithful community is at the heart of this book. Bass's personal account is the framework for a broader discussion of trends in today's mainline Protestant churches.

Things Seen and Unseen: A Year Lived in Faith (book).
Nora Gallager. New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1998.
A year of spiritual experience offered in the context of the liturgical seasons of the Christian year.

A Visit to a Mosque in America: Understanding Islam and the American Muslim Community (video).
Astolabe Pictures, 2002.
An intimate look inside the life of one Muslim community at the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati. Produced with support and cooperation of the Islamic Center of Greater Cincinnati.

Upon This Rock: The Miracles of a Black Church (book).
Samuel G. Freedman. New York, NY: HarperCollins, 1993.
The story of the transforming urban ministry of the Reverend Johnny Ray Youngblood in New York City.

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