Religious agency in the dynamics of gentrification

Moving in, moving out, and staying put in Philadelphia

Authored by: Kristin E. Holmes

The Routledge Handbook of Religion and Cities

Print publication date:  December  2020
Online publication date:  December  2020

Print ISBN: 9780367367121
eBook ISBN: 9780429351181
Adobe ISBN:


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The economic, social, and cultural shifts that shake urban communities in transition can upend churches and other institutions in gentrifying neighborhoods. The changes can become a threat to longtime churches who must scramble for a way to adapt to a changed landscape or help create a breeding ground for upstart congregations who appeal to residents new to the neighborhood. In three of Philadelphia’s most gentrified census tracts, new construction has skyrocketed, the African American population has plunged, the number of white residents has tripled, and median income has soared by between 64 and 111 percent. The area that one historian says was once “perhaps the most important center for African American people in the city” is now a place where many of its longtime churches are struggling to survive. It is amid this sweeping neighborhood transformation that congregations have made the decision to move out, move in, or stay put.

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