The Little Rock Congregations Study, a community-based research project out of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, has been studying faith and community engagement in our city since 2012. In that time, we have had the privilege to work with many faith and community leaders. As we prepare for our most ambitious research project yet in 2020, many of these leaders have offered words of support. Here, we share quotes from over a dozen leaders that are supporting the work we are doing.
Clergy that we have worked with in the past have reflected on the benefits of the research to their members and encouraged other congregations to participate.
Pastor Lindy Vogado of Second Presbyterian Church said, “I think the work of the Little Rock Congregations Study provides a great opportunity for all of us to learn more about what congregations and other religious groups are contributing to the community and also more comprehensive information about what the members of our individual congregations care about and value. We hope the information we gain from this study will help us to serve our neighbors better.”
Leon Barnes, the Preaching Minister at Central Church of Christ, said: “Fellow Christians and church leaders in Central Arkansas, it is a tremendous opportunity that is being offered to us by the Little Rock Congregations Study from UALR. We have worked with Gerald Driskill and Rebecca Glazier several times as they conducted studies and surveys in the local churches and have been impressed with the quality of their work. This study is exciting to me in that it will reach out to members of the different churches to get their feedback about efforts to cooperate between congregations to serve our area better. I would highly recommend that you and your congregation participate to give us all better information.”
In the research we are doing, we invite all places of worship within the city limits of Little Rock to participate. Small, medium, and large congregations from all faith traditions have contributed to the research and quotes from all levels of leadership across different kinds of congregations attest to the broad inclusiveness of the study.
Pastor Billy Burris of St. Peter Missionary Baptist Church said, “We have worked with Dr. Glazier and her students in the past it was a pleasure and a great experience for both myself and my membership. We enjoyed having the students in our service and the discussions afterward. It was enlightening and the results were helpful and eye opening. Dr. Glazier is a great person and we are looking forward to assisting once again in any way possible.”
Bishop Larry R. Benfield of the Episcopal Diocese of Arkansas said of the study, “I am very thankful that for the past eight years the Little Rock Congregations Study has been researching the involvement in their communities that over one hundred congregations in the Little Rock area have. Some Episcopal congregations have been part of the research, and now it is possible for many more to participate. I encourage all our congregations to do so. The results of this objective, academic research are made publicly available and can be extremely valuable to help churches and other groups to share outreach resources, resulting in closer connections with the larger community and improving the lives and living conditions of the very people we are called to serve.”
Rev. Britt Skarda, the recently retired pastor of Pulaski Heights Methodist Church, said: “When faith communities come together to study and explore possibilities for service in the broader community, transformation happens! The 2020 Little Rock Congregations Study holds great promise for leaders and members of Little Rock churches as they seek to make a difference in a changing world.”
Earnest Thomas, the Pastor of Discipleship at Saint Mark Baptist Church, said: “It is important that our churches be good neighbors to the community in which they reside. Churches that are active socially tend to grow numerically and mature spiritually. This survey is a great tool to help faith-based leaders understand the unique concerns and challenges our members face. I believe participating in this survey can help provide information and insight that can lead to creative solutions our churches need to combat the pressing problems facing our congregants and community.”
We have also been touched by the kind words of organizational leaders in our community, who see the good that our research can do in the hands of those who are engaged in serving and problem-solving.
Pastor Ray Williams, of Fellowship Bible Church and the Network Team Leader of the City Church Network, said: “Listening to our members and congregations across the city is one step we can take to improve our efforts to pastor and lead. Along with other pastors in the city, I was asked to guide the development of a brief survey designed to achieve this purpose. Please join other congregations in the city in this survey process intended to serve the church in the city.”
Ryan Davis, the Director of UA Little Rock Children International, said: “This brief survey has, for almost a decade now, helped faith communities get some measure of the depth and meaningfulness of their service. It is an assessment and a tool that helps faith leaders and congregants understand how and where to position themselves for the betterment of their communities in general and Little Rock in particular.”
Rev. Dr. Ray Higgins, the Executive Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of Arkansas, said: “UA Little Rock Professor Rebecca Glazier leads a visionary research project called the Little Rock Congregations Study. It brings to light the ways that congregations and non-profit organizations are engaging with Little Rock’s daily needs and toughest challenges. I encourage clergy and congregational leaders to participate in the study, so that we can be better partners in improving the quality of life of our neighbors and city.”
Dr. Danny Hinton, the Executive Director of Downline Little Rock, said: “I am very grateful for the work of Dr. Glazier and her team. Their work not only helps many across our city solve problems, but their research helps churches evaluate initiatives, identify needs and become more effective. This project remains a fascinating and useful partnership between the academic and the religious communities in Little Rock. I hope many of our local congregations jump on this opportunity to participate.”
Sophia Said, Chairwoman of the Madina Institute and Mosque and Executive Director of the Interfaith Center of Arkansas, noted the timeliness of the study, saying: “Living through this pandemic has highlighted the interconnectedness of our human race. The Little Rock Congregations Study shines the light on our congregations in a way that we can identify the connections that existed but were not fully realized and the opportunities that we have to work together towards common good. I hope more congregations will make use of this important work.”
Even the Mayor of Little Rock offered words of support as we begin our research in 2020, using totally electronic surveys for the very first time and increasing accessibility.
Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. said: “Thank you to my alma mater, UA Little Rock, for ensuring a full and complete sampling of Little Rock congregations for its 2020 study by making the survey accessible online. As an associate pastor at my church and mayor of Little Rock, I appreciate the various perspectives from residents about their views on faith and service to community. I look forward to receiving the results of this important study.”
Congregations and community members are not the only ones who benefit from the research project. We are also grateful for the opportunity it gives students at UA Little Rock to learn more about their community, engage in hands-on research, and give back in a meaningful way. The leaders of the University have also expressed support for the Little Rock Congregations Study and the way that it helps connect the University with the community.
Dr. Sarah Beth Estes, the Dean of the College of Arts, Letters, and Sciences at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, said: “The Little Rock Congregations Study is a prime example of the valuable interconnection between our university and city. Through collaboration with congregations, students are able to engage in active and applied learning that contributes to the well-being of our community and university.”
Dr. Christina Drale, the Chancellor of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock said, “The Little Rock Congregations Study is a superb example of the kind of research we value very highly at UA Little Rock. It not only seeks to address significant issues in the community, but it actively engages the community in responding to those issues, thereby enhancing the strength and sustainability of the resulting action. The project is also a terrific high-impact learning experience for our students who get to learn how to do community-centric research first-hand under the guidance of award-winning research professors. I can’t think of a better reflection of what we’re about at UA Little Rock. In sharing the results with participants, the Little Rock Congregations Study gives congregations an opportunity to learn more about themselves and about the possibilities for boosting their impact in areas that matter to them most. I encourage all in our faith-based community to participate in this study. I believe you will find it enlightening.”
We are so grateful for the many expressions of support we have heard from the faith and community leaders in Little Rock. Thank you! We look forward to continuing to work with you and learning more about the good work that is happening in our city.
If you would like your congregation to be a part of the 2020 Little Rock Congregations Study, please contact the Study Director, Dr. Rebecca Glazier, at email@example.com.