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Small-Town AmericaFinding Community, Shaping the Future$
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Robert Wuthnow

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780691157207

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691157207.001.0001

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Habits of Faith

Habits of Faith

The Social Role of Small-Town Congregations

(p.217) 7 Habits of Faith
Small-Town America

Robert Wuthnow

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines the social role of religious congregations in small towns. Although religious participation is somewhat higher in small towns than in larger communities, the differences are relatively small. The perception among residents that religion is important has more to do with the presence of religious buildings, along with the public activities of religious organizations, than with statistical measures of belief and practice. Religious organizations also serve significantly as carriers of collective narratives about caring behavior in the community, and they increasingly provide links between small towns and the wider world through mission trips as well as humanitarian and relief efforts. In small communities with declining populations, religious organizations are adapting in creative ways to meet the needs and interests of their constituents. The clustering of congregations, shared pastorates, mergers, and closing of churches are among the solutions that are being attempted.

Keywords:   religious congregations, small towns, religious participation, religion, religious buildings, religious organizations, caring, community, church closure

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