Differing faith communities are coming together with more frequency to pray together and serve together than before the Sept. 11 2001 terrorist attacks, a new survey reports.
The survey, sponsored by the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership, shows that approximately 22 percent of polled congregations reported participating in an interfaith religious service within the last year. About 37 percent of congregations polled said they had conducted community service with congregations of different faiths.
It’s a sharp rise from the organization’s last survey, conducted in 2000, when 7 percent of congregations reported interfaith worship and 8 percent reported interfaith community service.
David A. Roozen, director of the 20-plus member coalition for interfaith cooperation, credits a post-9/11 world for the change.
“The increased attention being given by communities of faith to interfaith engagements continues to be dramatic,” Roozen said in a statement. “The Sept. 11 upturn in interfaith awareness has been accompanied by a fundamental change in the United States’ perception of the American religious mosaic.”
The partnership represents primarily Christian congregations, but also includes representatives of the Muslim, Jewish and Baha’i faiths. Interfaith participation has been particularly public in the last few months, as leaders of diverse religious bodies have rallied together on issues such as gay marriage, immigration and the genocide in Sudan.
The survey showed that interfaith participation was greatest among “other-than-Christian” bodies. Forty percent of non-Christian congregations had engaged in interfaith worship, and 64 percent had participated in community service, the survey showed.
Among Christian congregations, mainline Protestant churches lead the pack in interfaith worship with 30 percent, followed by Catholic and Orthodox with 28 percent and other Protestant congregations (including evangelical and historically black bodies) with 17 percent.
Fifty-six percent of Catholic and Orthodox congregations polled participated in interfaith community service, followed by 46 percent of mainline Protestant churches and 30 percent of other Protestant churches.
The survey, titled Faith Communities Today 2005, randomly polled 884 congregations in 2005 representing all faith traditions in the United States, the partnership said. A complete report of the group’s survey is slated to be released this August.