McRoberts, Omar Maurice

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McROBERTS, Omar Maurice

PERSONAL:

Male. Education: University of Chicago, B.A., 1994; Harvard University, M.A., 1997, Ph.D., 2000.

ADDRESSES:

Office—Department of Sociology, University of Chicago, 1126 East 59th St., Chicago, IL 60637. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, assistant professor of sociology.

AWARDS, HONORS:

Ford fellowship, 1998.

WRITINGS:

Streets of Glory: Church and Community in a Black Urban Neighborhood, University of Chicago Press (Chicago, IL), 2003.

SIDELIGHTS:

Omar Maurice McRoberts's first book, Streets of Glory: Church and Community in a Black Urban Neighborhood, contains "trenchant revisionist views of how churches actually work in depressed urban areas," wrote a reviewer for the Project on Lived Theology Web site. In the book McRoberts studies the religious landscape of the depressed Boston-area Four Corners neighborhood. The area is notable because it includes twenty-nine churches, most operating out of rented storefronts, in a four-block area. McRoberts's study has two major focuses: first, it examines how so many churches manage to survive in such close proximity, and second, it evaluates the churches' prospects for providing social services through faith-based initiatives. He discovered that the churches can coexist because they are not geographically based neighborhood churches; instead, they draw people from all over the city who have an affinity with each church because of shared beliefs or other personal characteristics. The churches are attracted to the area because of the low rents and have very little investment in the neighborhood, since they frequently move and have few members from the local area.

Many reviewers praised the study for its timely refutation of the idea that churches in poor urban neighborhoods are unable to provide social services to the local area. "There is no better study available on this volatile subject than this one," wrote Boston Globe critic Peter J. Gomes, and it should be "required reading for all would-be policy makers." But that is not the only lesson to be drawn from McRoberts's study. As Kelly Kleiman noted in In These Times, he "has performed a great service by providing evidence to rebut those who imagine the profusion of churches in poor black neighborhoods represents some sort of pathological African-American preference for consolation over self-improvement."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

Boston Globe, August 17, 2003, Peter J. Gomes, review of Streets of Glory: Church and Community in a Black Urban Neighborhood.

Library Journal, May 1, 2003, Suzanne W. Wood, review of Streets of Glory, p. 143.

ONLINE

Center for Urban and Regional Policy,http://www.curp.neu.edu/ (June 10, 2004), Crystal Myers, "Churches and the Neighborhoods That Surround Them."

In These Times,http://www.inthesetimes.com/ (August 4, 2003), Kelly Kleiman, "Local Anesthesia."

Project on Lived Theology,http://livedtheology.org/ (June 10, 2003), review of Streets of Glory.

University of Chicago Department of Sociology,http://www.sociology.uchicago.edu/ (June 10, 2003), "Omar M. McRoberts."

University of Chicago Press,http://www.press.uchicago.edu/ (June 10, 2004), interview with Omar Maurice McRoberts.*

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