Communities in the United States have become increasingly more diverse religiously and spiritually in recent decades. A number of scholars have undertaken community research projects chronicling how religion and spirituality are organized and lived in a specific community. Links to those Local Projects are presented here. Many of the projects listed here are affiliates of the Pluralism Project at Harvard University, and most projects operated for a limited time with specific project objectives.
The World Religions in Richmond Project (WRR) is an ongoing research project that has as its objective chronicling the religious/spiritual diversity that exists in the Richmond, Virginia community. There are currently well over eight hundred religious congregational units in the Richmond metropolitan area representing many of the world’s major religious traditions. WRR lists each of these religious congregations and offers profiles of selected congregational units. WRR also lists, and profiles some, of the many, diverse community groups and events founded by or affiliated with religious/spiritual traditions found in Richmond.
The Student Research on North American Buddhist Communities project has been developed since 2015 at William and Mary University in Williamsburg, Virginia. The project is publicly presented through a blog and is organized under the direction of Professor Kevin Vose in the Buddhism in America course. Buddhist communities across the United States are profiled, with a strong emphasis on communities in the Virginia area.
Arch City Religion is a teaching project currently (2019) being developed at the University of St. Louis. The project is defined as follows:
“As a teaching project, Arch City Religion seeks not only to provide valuable information to researchers, students, journalists, and the public, but also to use the rich history and culture of St. Louis to think through the craft of research; to learn to distinguish information from impression; to analyze objects, rituals, and spaces for what is contained and for what is conveyed; and to exercise responsible communication about complex histories and practices of faith in St. Louis.”
A Journey through NYC religions is an ongoing project that began on July 9, 2010. The organization states that its mission is “to explore, document and explain through our online magazine and other educational programs the great religious changes that are taking place in New York City.” The project documents the incredible variety and number of faith details about the city that people will understand more deeply how such details contribute to the excitement to the city. It serves as an incubator and educator for new ways of doing religion reporting and understanding the postsecular city.
From 1998-2006, Dr. Timothy Cahill at Loyola University, New Orleans led a project to map the religious diversity in New Orleans, with special progress over the summer of 2003.
World Religions in Arizona
This project grew out of a course at Arizona State University developed by Dr. David Damrel in which students participated in field work exploring the presence of diverse religious communities in the Phoenix area. The project spanned the years 2003-2007.
This project at Rollins College began in 1998 and was headed by Dr. Yudit K. Greenberg and Dr. Arnold Wettstein. The goal was to involve students in a study of the religious landscape of Orlando. The study sought to provide a comprehensive history with a focus on the rise of new communities and their integration into the life and culture of Orlando. Project leaders submitted a project report: : Central Florida’s Changing Religious Profile – Dr. Yudit K. Greenberg and Rev. Dr. Arnold Wettstein
The Portland Muslim History Project began in 2004 at Reed College under the leadership of Dr. Kambiz GhaneaBassiri. The mission of the project was to narrate the history of Muslim built communities in Portland, Oregon, aiming to describe in detail how the Islamic tradition was rooted within the built environment of a local American context. The project connects to a larger book project by Dr. Kambiz GhaneaBassiri, A History of Islam in America: From the New World to the New World Order (Oxford University Press, 2010).
When a group of Pure Land Buddhist monks faced opposition to opening a temple and education center in a small rural town in Virginia, Dr. Steven Emmanuel collaborated with Ven. Chuc Thanh to offer a public course at Virginia Wesleyan College on Buddhism in Virginia Beach during the summer of 2009.The project led to a series of public courses to educate members of the local community on Buddhism over a three year period. A film, Living in the Pure Land, also was produced that is available on Vimeo.
Dr. Greg Emery served as the Director and a Faculty Member of the Global Leadership Center at Ohio University until spring 2015. Beginning in 2003 he led Ohio University students in research that documented and explored the New Vrindaban (Hare Krishna) community in nearby Moundsville, West Virginia. The project produced a several research reports: A Collection of Research on the Practices of the Hindu Community of New Vrindaban (Part I) (2011), A Collection of Research on the Practices of the Hindu Community of New Vrindaban (Part II) (2011), and Community Members’ Visions for the Future on the 40th Anniversary of New Vrindaban (2009), as well as a number of student project reports.
Dr. Pankaj Jain is an associate professor of anthropology, philosophy, and religion at the University of North Texas. He is co-director of the Rural Sustainability Summit and co-leader of the India Initiatives group. Dr. Jain led an investigation of the religious and ecological practices of Hindus and Jains in North Texas. His project explored the connections between the religious traditions of local Hindus and Jains and their environmental practices. The project produced a substantial number of profiles of Hindu and Jain groups in North Texas and is connected to his book, Dharma and Ecology of Hindu Communities: Sustenance and Sustainability (2011).
Dr. Gary Laderman, Goodrich C. White professor and chair of the religion department at Emory University inaugurated the research project on the changing religious landscape of Atlanta, Georgia in 1998. The project had two objectives: gathering basic information about Hindu, Buddhist, and Muslim communities in metropolitan Atlanta and exploring the ways in which these newer religious traditions were adapting to, as well as shaping, American funeral rituals. The project produced a number of group profies and is connected two several books authored by Dr. Laderman: Religions of Atlanta: Religious Diversity in the Centennial Olympic City. (Atlanta: Scholars Press), 1996; The Sacred Remains: American Attitudes Toward Death, 1799-1883 (New Haven: Yale University Press), 1999; and Rest in Peace: A Cultural History of Death and the Funeral Home in Twentieth-Century America (Oxford University Press), 2005.
In 2002, Dr. Kathryn McClymond, professor in and chair of the department of religious studies at Georgia State University, inaugurated a research project on Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Muslim and Sikh religious centers in and around Altanta, Georgia.Dr. McClymond and her students produced a number of profiles on groups in these traditions.
Dr. David Odell-Scott, associate dean at Kent State University, and Dr. Surinder Bhardwaj, professor emeritus in the geography department at Kent State University, inaugurated a research project on immigrant religious groups in Northern Ohio in 1999. The project mapped centers associated with the Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, Sikh, and Muslim traditions, as well as ethnic immigrant Christian communities.
Dr. Michael Stoltzfus, professor of religious studies at Valdosta State University, inaugurated a research project in 2006 on “Pluralism in the ‘Bible Belt’: Mapping the Religious Diversity of South Georgia.” The objectives of the project were to document historic changes in the region’s religious demographics and to explore some of the challenges faced by minority religious communities. The project emphasized new diversity as evidenced by its many churches and a Jewish community which recently celebrated its centennial—new communities of Muslims, Hindus, Korean Protestants, Latino Catholics, and others.
Dr. Claude Stulting and Dr. Sam Britt, faculty members in the department of religion at Furman University, inaugurated a research project in 1998 on religious pluralism in Upstate South Carolina. The project had three stages: mapping of the religious landscape of South Carolina, a focused study of specific groups in the Upstate of South Carolina, and a study of specific groups in the Midlands of South Carolina, focusing on the Columbia metropolitan area. A substantial number of group profiles were produced by the project.