The Missouri Rural Church Study

TRoRA: ToC

TRoRA: Chapter 1 – Introduction
As Sunday morning’s dawn spreads across rural North America, millions of people awake, arise, and prepare to make their way to worship in one of the more than 200,000 churches that dot the country-side and cluster in the hamlets and the towns of this land. For the most part, these are small congregations with fewer than 100 persons in attendance. Most have existed for a century or more. Typically, the churches have been bonded by ties of kinship and place, a history of shared experiences, pleasant memories, deep commitments to the continued viability of the church and a vibrant faith…

TRoRA: Chapter 2 – From a Place to Farm to a Place to Live
The Missouri Rural Church Study has been America’s principal source of information about the Rural Church for 50 years, now. The study was originally funded in 1952 by the Rockefeller Foundation to look at religion in some of the most rural areas of Mid-America.. At that time 100 townships representing Missouri’s economic, cultural and ecological diversity were selected and representatives of each church in these townships were interviewed. None of these townships contained a town or village with more than 2500 inhabitants. Subsequently, all churches in the same townships were studied in 1967, in 1982 and in 1998-99…

TRoRA: Chapter 3 – The Institutional Context of the Rural Church, Today
The previous chapter provides an overview of major changes that have occurred in American Society since 1950 and discusses the implications of these changes upon rural congregations and clergy. Economic and social changes are not the only ones that have influenced religion’s life in Rural America. Parallel to these changes have been changes in American religious faith and practice which have also constrained the way that rural people have organized their religious lives. This chapter examines these changes and discusses the challenges and opportunities they present for rural churches…

TRoRA: Chapter 4 – How the Rural Churches Have Responded to Change
“Precious Memories: Our Vanishing Rural Churches” was aired by Arkansas Public Television in late 1999. Beautifully filmed and well-narrated, it told the story of 5 rural churches in that state two closed, one closing, and two struggling to continue. A similar documentary dealing with Minnesota rural churches, and a Public Radio Broadcast about rural churches in the Dakotas appeared in early 2000 and followed the same story line. Certainly, many rural churches are closing. And there is a sadness about a church house standing silent by the side of the road…

TRoRA: Chapter 5 – Religion in Little Dixie
In this chapter I will focus on five counties in central Missouri–Lafayette, Saline, Cooper, Howard, and Callaway which comprise the heart of the Little Dixie region of the state. R. Douglas Hurt in his book, Agriculture and Slavery in Little Dixie, also includes Clay and Boone Counties. But I have not included them for this study because these two counties have become essentially urban. We will draw upon the data from our study and from the Religious Congregations and Membership study…

TRoRA: Chapter 6 – Religion in the Ozarks
The Ozarks is the name of a hilly area which encompasses most of Missouri south of the Missouri River. It spills over into Arkansas and Oklahoma. For the most part it is an ancient plateau which has been eroded away across the ages. It is rich in minerals and timber. But the land beyond the river valleys usually is thin and poor in fertility. In this chapter I will present data from four distinct areas of the Ozarks…

TRoRA: Chapter 7 – Religion in the Agricultural Regions
In this chapter we will consider what has happened in two types of rural counties beyond the Ozarks. One will look at the area of North Missouri which adapted well across first two-thirds of the 20th Century to “general agriculture”. But with the development after 1970 of “commercial agriculture”, it found itself with “comparative disadvantage” in grain production. (See Chapter Two.) Operations have shifted. And population has dropped as a consequence…

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