Partners for Sacred Places has been a leader for the last 35 years history in empowering faith communities in community engagement. Partners is the only nonsectarian, nonprofit organization dedicated to sound stewardship and active community use of older sacred places across America. They have provided capital campaign training and fundraising strategies, along with technical assistance, and grants to congregations and stewards of historic sacred places in all 50 states, as well as D.C., Puerto Rico, the USVI, and Canada. They have supported a wide range of faith communities on the wise and effective use of their buildings including Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and Quaker.
Partners has also generated significant research into the impact that sacred places have in their contexts. Their “Halo Effect” study documented the civic value contributed and found it to be considerable: the average urban sacred place has an economic impact totaling about $1.7 million when calculating programs offered, direct spending, shared space with other organizations, recreational facilities, etc. They also found that the social value of rural congregations is $735,000.
However, as congregations are declining in size and numbers, taking care of beloved old buildings can be crippling. Many sacred places are closing, being repurposed for non-religious uses, or even being demolished, although there is no hard data on this. There is concern among neighbors and civic leaders about what might happen when the church that was the anchor of a neighborhood is gone or the temple that was so central to the social fabric of a community closes. What happens to the service programs that were housed there—what is the impact on their clientele? There is very little research (quantitative or qualitative) to back up anecdotal evidence on the cumulative effects of the loss of sacred places.
Partners for Sacred Places is seeking researchers who can look at the flip side of the Halo Effect—what is lost when a sacred space and its stewards are gone? Research is being sought to begin this documentation through five research grants. The timeline is relatively short and the stipend modest, although it is hoped that this could be part of other research projects. Research could be at the macro or micro level, looking at larger trends or individual case studies—quantitative or ethnographic. There might be opportunity for researchers to present their findings at an event in April, 2024, and of course publication is encouraged.
For more information, please contact Dr. Katie Day (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Deadline for 300 word abstract of idea: April 1, 2023
Awards announced: May 1, 2023
Research period: May 2023-January 2024
Deadline for paper (8000 words): March 1, 2024