"May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me." - Jesus, John 17:23

People of the Dream by Michael Emerson

People of the Dream: Multiracial Congregations in the United States

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A brief summary

This an excellent book on the ups and downs of building multiracial congregations.  The book summarizes their findings of seven years of research by Dr. Emerson and his research team – including thousands of interviews and many visits to multi-ethnic churches.

I think this resource is helpful because…

It describes in detail many of the benefits and challenges of building and sustaining multiracial congregations. It is filled with stories and quotes of those who are a part of multiracial congregations.

A favorite quote from this resource…

In this sense, far from integration leading to assimilation, at least in the overall context of the multiracial congregations my colleagues and I studied, integration helped people grow more secure in and proud of their cultural identities. This finding, at least early on in the research, seemed to me counterintuitive. But the consistent pattern, combined with other factors — for example, the generalizable principle that we are more cognizant of our uniqueness when we are with people different from us — suggests that multiracial organizations may be ideal places to work toward the balance of common goals, interracial social networks, and nourishment of cultural uniqueness. (p.119)

Description of this book from the publisher’s website:

It is sometimes said that the most segregated time of the week in the United States is Sunday morning. Even as workplaces and public institutions such as the military have become racially integrated, racial separation in Christian religious congregations is the norm. And yet some congregations remain stubbornly, racially mixed. People of the Dream is the most complete study of this phenomenon ever undertaken. Author Michael Emerson explores such questions as: how do racially mixed congregations come together? How are they sustained? Who attends them, how did they get there, and what are their experiences? Engagingly written, the book enters the worlds of these congregations through national surveys and in-depth studies of those attending racially mixed churches. Data for the book was collected over seven years by the author and his research team. It includes more than 2,500 telephone interviews, hundreds of written surveys, and extensive visits to mixed-race congregations throughout the United States.

People of the Dream argues that multiracial congregations are bridge organizations that gather and facilitate cross-racial friendships, disproportionately housing people who have substantially more racially diverse social networks than do other Americans. The book concludes that multiracial congregations and the people in them may be harbingers of racial change to come in the United States.

Michael O. Emerson is Allyn R. and Gladys M. Cline Professor of Sociology and founding director of the Center on Race, Religion, and Urban Life at Rice University. He is the coauthor of several books, including Divided by Faith, United by Faith, and Against All Odds. Dr. Rodney Woo is Senior Pastor of the Wilcrest Baptist Church in Houston, Texas.


“The book’s bottom line: Multiracial churches are rare, hard to sustain and worth the trouble.”–Sam Hodges, Dallas Morning News

People of the Dream is arguably the most complete examination to date of an important but thin slice of religious life in the United States. . . . By virtue of its scope, its originality, and its ability to captivate, it will surely set the standard in the study of multiracial congregations for some time to come.”–James C. Cavendish, Contemporary Sociology

“The book’s solid scholarship will satisfy the academy, and its accessibility will also make it useful in the church.”–Deborah J. Kapp, Journal of Church and State

People of the Dream is filled with individual stories sympathetically told and quantitative data competently analyzed; it faces tough issues and offers reasonable grounds for hope. It is by far the best book on its topic that I know of.”–R. Stephen Warner, Christian Century


“Exhaustively researched and meticulously crafted, People of the Dream is a deeply important book.”–Omar McRoberts, University of Chicago

“A rising star in the field of sociology and religion, Michael Emerson has a rare knack for describing statistical results in terms that non-specialists can understand.”–Robert Wuthnow, Princeton University

“With an impressive variety of methods, Emerson provides a detailed look at interracial religious congregations that defy the norm of America’s most segregated institution. A recommended read for everyone interested in religion and intergroup relations.”–Tom Pettigrew, University of California, Santa Cruz

Table of Contents:

Acknowledgments ix
Prelude: Decision 1
Chapter One: Dreams 5
Chapter Two: Dist inct ive 28
Chapter Three: Paths 47
Chapter Four: Folk 74
Chapter Five: Attract ions 105
Chapter Six: Shadows 131
Chapter Seven: Moment um 158
Appendix A: Shifting Visions: A Brief History of Metaphors for U.S. Race and Ethnic Relations 173
Appendix B: Statistical Tables 194
Appendix C: Methodology 200
Appendix D: Instruments 209
Bibliography 245
Index 25

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  • ps133 said:

    This is a great book — especially for pastors and ministry leaders. Its not all “rosy” — many of the multiracial congregations struggle with how to make it work — but, it is very helpful. I highly recommend it.

  • andersonmoyo said:


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