Emerging Perspectives: Student Chapters

The Essential Presence of Faith-Based Organizations in Sustainable Community Development

Darby Pethrick

The presence of faith-based organizations as social, human, and cultural capital within every community, regardless of demographic dimension, politics, race, and income demonstrate the resilience of religion as an asset essential to the cultivation of sustainable community development. Throughout history, religious groups have served as providers of essential services for the less fortunate, and advocates for social justice and equity in both rural and urban communities. Despite trying circumstances, this resolute effort over time and their relative success in providing support to those in need, has afforded faith based-organizations credibility, and in some cases their role is indispensable.

My passion for community development began when I had the opportunity to serve the community of Philadelphia, PA by working with The Philadelphia Project, a Christian service organization, in the summers of my teenage years. As a faith-based organization with the mission to partner with local churches, serve their most vulnerable neighbors and provide transformative service opportunities, the project actively strives to offer hope to those they surround…

…Just as The Philadelphia Project serves their urban area, thousands of faith-based organizations have made it their mission to serve communities across the entirety of America through expressions of their religious beliefs and values. The adaptability of faith-based work contributes to its success and resilience, ranging greatly in size, faith, and expression in response to the demographic diversity of America. In rural American communities, faith-based organizations present themselves most popularly through traditional Christian faiths. As shown in a study by The Harvard School of Public Health, Evangelical, Protestant, and Catholic faiths account for approximately 73% of rural American religious affiliations (Harvard School of Public Health, 2019). Traditional Christian churches have woven themselves into the rural American identity, and many times act as the vital organ of these communities…


Find the rest of this chapter in Emerging Perspectives on Religion and Environmental Values in America HERE.


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Religion and Environmental Values in America Copyright © 2019 by Darby Pethrick is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.