“No Matter Where You’re From, We’re Glad You’re Our Neighbor:” Enacting Justice Initiatives and Community Formation in Faith-Based Organizations

Head shot of Jenna Smith

Name: Jenna Smith
Major: Sociology
Minor: Religious Studies
Advisors: Dr. Heather Fitz Gibbon, Dr. Seiko Matsuzawa (Second Reader)

Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs) in the United States offer a variety of services and influence social dynamics within their communities, specifically in northeast Ohio. Churches, service agencies, and ministries all often pursue immigration advocacy initiatives and ground their work in religious doctrine, using frameworks such as ‘hospitality’ and ‘welcoming the stranger’ to motivate their own initiatives and connect with uninvolved or antagonistic populations. Due to current climates of political polarization and dehumanizing rhetoric in immigration dialogues, this study seeks to analyze the ways in which religious actors define and enact community and explore the contributions of the groups in which they serve. I first review current literature regarding religious institutions and their intersections with immigration and social justice work. I then collect data through qualitative research methods, involving nine interviews conducted over the course of two years (October 2020 – February 2022) with leaders, volunteers, and organizers directly involved with FBOs. My study demonstrates a) agency conceptions of community and negotiations with internal tension; b) challenges and strategies in interactions with external audiences; c) primary outreach techniques for FBOs, including education and bodily work; and d) the interconnectedness of structural violence in precipitating and perpetuating social injustice, especially for immigrants in the United States. I conclude with a discussion of community and reflect not on notions of religiosity itself, but of how such beliefs are enacted as agents of change in local frameworks. This study expands upon current scholarship of immigrant and religious networks in northeast Ohio and illuminates the crucial role of FBOs in their justice initiatives.

Posted in Comments Enabled, Independent Study, Symposium 2022 on April 26, 2022.

11 responses to ““No Matter Where You’re From, We’re Glad You’re Our Neighbor:” Enacting Justice Initiatives and Community Formation in Faith-Based Organizations”

  1. Heather Fitz Gibbon says:

    Great job, Jenna! Looking forward to the presentation this morning!

  2. Mark Graham says:

    Jenna: What great work! I am so happy to know more about your project, and I would like to read your IS, if you don’t mind sending it to me. Congratulations!

  3. Chan Sok Park says:

    Jenna, thank you for sharing your IS project here. This is a particularly important project for our students in the Pre-Ministry program. I’d be grateful if you would send me a copy of your IS.

  4. Rachel Jones says:

    Congratulations Jenna!! I’m so proud of you!!

  5. Kent Kille says:

    Great to see how far you have come since FYS, congratulations Jenna!

  6. Georgia Hopps-Weber says:

    Beautiful presentation, Jenna! Congratulations on finishing IS!

  7. Brian Luck says:

    Congrats on a fantastic IS, Jenna!

  8. Mom says:

    You did a wonderful job Jenna!! I am so proud of you!

  9. Grandma says:

    What an amazing presentation. God bless. Love you so much.

  10. Dad says:

    I am very proud of you! Love you.

  11. Abby McFarren says:

    This is such an interesting IS Jeanna! Congrats and thanks for sharing!

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Closely affiliated with the Anthropology program, sociology majors at The College of Wooster take core courses in research methods and theory.

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Religious Studies

An interdisciplinary, academic approach to the study of religion that includes history, art, theology, and more.

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