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Race, Religion, and Worship: Are Contemporary African-American Worship Practices Distinct?

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Drawing upon the cultural repertoire and religious marketplace perspectives, this study examines the extent to which ecstatic, participatory worship practices are distinctive to African-American congregations and explores the role that ecstatic, participatory worship plays in contemporary African-American worship. National Congregations Study (NCS) data are used to conduct comparative analyses of African-American and white congregations' participation in two forms of ecstatic, participatory worship: verbal affirmation and spontaneous physical worship. Findings suggest that while spontaneous physical worship is distinctive to the religiocultural repertoires of African-American congregations, verbal affirmation is not. Traditional explanations about the origin of ecstatic, participatory worship, such as religious tradition, Pentecostalism, and social class, are less compelling than they were in the past. For contemporary African-American congregations, ecstatic, participatory worship is no longer associated with marginal or less-educated congregations, but with more sociopolitically and religiously progressive ones.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Sociology Ohio State University

Publication date: March 1, 2009

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