Little Rock’s faith leaders share concerns about the city’s future. They see education, race relations, poverty, and mental health as among the many issues affecting the city’s residents and their congregants.
Their concerns surfaced April 11 at the Little Rock Religious Leaders Summit organized by the Little Rock Congregations Study research project at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. The summit brought together more than 50 religious leaders to discuss the major problems facing Little Rock, share research findings, and brainstorm ways that UA Little Rock researchers can inform and support religious leaders in their efforts to improve our city.
“It was wonderful to see such a thoughtful and diverse group of faith leaders gather together to discuss how to move our city forward,” said Rebecca Glazier, associate professor in UA Little Rock’s School of Public Affairs and the the primary investigator of the Little Rock Congregations Study.
At the summit, faith leaders broke into a smaller discussions groups, facilitated by Dr. April Chatham-Carpenter, chair of the applied communication department at UA Little Rock, and discussed challenges facing Little Rock and their congregants and how can researchers help in the future.
“We, as members of the clergy, have to get outside our sanctuary walls. It’s great to take care of those within the sanctuary, but we have to get beyond,” Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. told the crowd. “In these new times, it’s about education justice, economic justice, interpersonal justice. It warms my heart to be before you today and see so many faith leaders. At the end of the day, we’re all about people, about love – Muslim brother or sister, Jewish brother or sister, or Christian brother or sister. At the end of the day, we all love this city and each other and want to do good.”
Although this year’s Religious Leaders Summit was a first, the Little Rock Congregations Study has been conducted since 2012 when 66 clergy from five churches were initially surveyed. In 2016, UA Little Rock partnered with the Clinton School of Public Service and expanded its survey to include 84 clergy from 17 congregations. The most recent report was based on a survey of 112 clergy and involved more than 50 UA Little Rock student researchers.
Glazier said that the overall finding is that communities improve when congregations and nonprofits work together toward common goals. For example, many churches and nonprofits that provide food pantries for their clients could benefit by collaborating.
“Looking at the feedback we received from the Religious Leaders Summit, we see our role as researchers as contributing in two important ways,” Glazier said. “First, researchers can help by studying topics that are particularly important to religious communities in Little Rock. Second, researchers can also contribute by looking at broader questions including how to facilitate collaboration and how to find long-term, systemic solutions.”
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette coverage of the summit can be found here.
Rebecca Glazier, associate professor in the School of Public Affairs at UA Little Rock, speaks at the ReligiousLeaders Summit on April 11 at UA Little Rock Downtown where members of the city’s clergy and religious leaders met to discuss issues affecting the city. Photo by Benjamin Krain