Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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List of Tables and Figures

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p. vii

Acknowledgments

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p. ix

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Introduction

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pp. 1-6

It would have been hard to guess from the beige linoleum tile floor, the white cinderblock basement walls, or the big aluminum coffee pots labeled “regular” and “decaf” standing at attention near the doorway.You would not know it from scanning the people in the room, either. Here were late middle-aged, white...

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1. In Search of the Social Spiral

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pp. 7-41

“Feelings and ideas are renewed, the heart enlarged, and the understanding developed only by the reciprocal action of men one upon another.”1 Social observers quote few sentences more frequently than this one, written by the famous nineteenth-century observer of American life, Alexis de Tocqueville...

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2. Studying the Social Spiral

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pp. 42-59

On Tocqueville’s trail, I set out in pursuit of the social spiral. Tocqueville supposed that something about interaction in local groups would promote broad ties to the world beyond the group. Increasingly, sociologists are coming to appreciate a similar insight: People create social ties...

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3. Networkers and Volunteers Reaching Out

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pp. 60-98

“Pray for this city,” the executive administrator of Lakeburg County had told a special meeting of Lakeburg religious leaders in 1995. He was worried about what would happen when the county’s social welfare programs got cut. Longtime volunteers in the Urban Religious Coalition (URC), along with...

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4. Crying Out: Social Critics

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pp. 99-132

Justice Task Force members were insurgents. In the year before Lakeburg Presbyterian’s kickoff meeting, the URC held meetings to plan the Humane Response Alliance. Catherine attended them and challenged the HRA’s whole approach, calling it more social-service directed than systematic-change directed...

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5. Christ-like Care: Social Servants

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pp. 133-170

“This is a great day for your churches, and for the city of Lakeburg,” Evan announced. For weeks leading up to this hot July evening, Evan had been working with county social service people, identifying families that were losing their welfare benefits. Evan’s Adopt-a-Family program would match up these...

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6. A Social Spiral Winds Outward: Partners

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pp. 171-215

On the second Wednesday of every month, the deceptively quiet street outside of Park Neighborhood Center becomes busier, parking space becomes tighter, and white faces become more common than usual. It is Park Cluster’s monthly meeting. A dozen church people, mostly in their sixties and seventies, meander...

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7. Doing Things with Religion in Local Civic Life

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pp. 216-246

When I started going to Park Cluster meetings, I thought the volunteers would talk about their civic duties in Christian terms, at least once in a while. Park Cluster was trying to build a relationship with a neighborhood whose most vocal leader promoted black separatism and scorned white outsiders...

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8. Doing Things Together: Lessons from Religious Community Service Groups

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pp. 247-263

By the time I started studying the Lakeburg groups, the URC’s Donald and Adopt-a-Family’s Evan already had heard about the decline in Americans’ civic involvement. But both wanted to do more than get people to join groups. Donald talked about reconnecting the caring community. Evan talked about getting...

Appendix I: Theory and Evidence in a Study of Religious Community Service Groups

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pp. 264-273

Appendix II: Studying Customs

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pp. 274-280

Notes

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pp. 281-302

References

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pp. 303-324

Index

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pp. 325-333