Feeling the Spirit: Faith and Hope in an Evangelical Black Storefront Church (Studies in Comparative Religion)

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9781570030512: Feeling the Spirit: Faith and Hope in an Evangelical Black Storefront Church (Studies in Comparative Religion)
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Amidst a game room, transient hotel, car wash, tire repair shop, and unpaved parking lot, members of First Corinthians Missionary Baptist Church worship in a rickety structure abandoned during Chicago's race riots of the 1960s. Frances Kostarelos, an anthropologist granted unique access to the life and organization of this congregation, ushers readers into its services, seminars, committee meetings, and prayer meetings and into the homes of the individuals who worship there. Her vivid participant-observer portrait sheds light on a remarkably little understood social formation that shapes the lives of millions of inner-city African Americans - the evangelical storefront church.
Drawing on years of ethnographic research, Kostarelos illumines the nature, role, and function of religion in this congregation and in the African-American community at large. She analyzes the precepts that unite the church, the life histories of its leading members, and the organizational structure of the ministry. Her study reveals a staggering range of official roles filled by parishioners, enormous blocks of time devoted to church activities, and a set of narratives and practices that effectively challenge degrading stereotypical images of working-class and poor African Americans.
Kostarelos squarely contradicts social critics who characterize the storefront church as a capitulation to white economic power structures or as an otherworldly escape from the ghetto. Rather, she portrays the institution as the legacy of a 300-year struggle against oppression and as the embodiment of solidarity among working-class and poverty-stricken African Americans.

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Frances Kostarelos is an assistant professor in the departments of anthropology and liberal studies at Governors State University in University Park, Illinois.

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