Nurturing Sanctuary

Community Capacity Building in African American Churches

by Townsand Price-Spratlen (Author)
©2015 Textbook XVI, 199 Pages


How are predominantly African American churches meeting the needs of young people? What resources of, and tensions in, faith leadership are shaping answers to this and other related questions? Nurturing Sanctuary analyzes ways in which the two most vital institutions of the Black experience – families and churches – are working with schools and health providers to respond to contemporary challenges and improve the twenty-first century life chances of African Americans and others. Data were generated from a four-year collaboration of eighteen churches, public health professionals, service learning students, and an interdisciplinary team of researchers. Eighty parents and pastors, and over 400 teenagers in a large, Midwestern city specified strategies of action in their daily lives and how they use them to respond, more and less successfully, to their many life challenges. Nurturing Sanctuary explores three capacity-building themes that emerged and critiques diverse Sacred and secular resources being developed and used. Finally, it specifies innovative best practices that are enriching faith-health relationships among religiously active persons, and all others with whom they interact within and beyond sanctuary walls.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgments
  • Introduction
  • Chapter 1. Community Capacity Building in an Age of Faith? Pedagogy and Tensions of Nurturing Sanctuary
  • Collecting the Data
  • Findings from the Survey Data
  • Institutions of Refuge
  • A Conceptual Foundation
  • Overview of the Book
  • Part 1: Pedagogies of Faith
  • Chapter 2. Service Learning in the Faith and Health of African American Youth
  • Introduction
  • Managing Motives: Initiating the Service-Learning Process
  • The Goals of the CoCHY Service-Learning Initiative
  • Saturating Learning with Service: Public Health and the Community in Action
  • The SLI Projects: Faith-Health and Community-Engaged Pedagogy
  • In the Field of Faith
  • Faith, Health, and Reciprocity: Saturating Learning with the Spirit of Service
  • Chapter 3. Reflecting Faith: Service Learning and Community-Engaged Pedagogy
  • Introduction
  • Reflection in a Critical Pedagogy of Faith
  • Learning Through Reflections of Service
  • Place, Process, and More: Reflecting on Community
  • Critical Reflections from the Community in Action
  • Part 2: Tensions of Faith
  • Chapter 4. The Erotic in the Faith Socialization of Black Churches
  • Introduction
  • Erotic Messaging: Faith, Purpose, and Love
  • “Safe” Relationship Building in Contemporary Black Faith
  • What Works? A Dialogue of Formality and Popular Culture
  • Pathways of Inclusion
  • Conclusion: “Uses of the Erotic” in Developmental Black Faith
  • Chapter 5. Strengthening the Bridge Between Us: Intergenerational Capacity Building in Contemporary Black Faith
  • Introduction
  • Spiritual Dissonance in Intergenerational Faith
  • Enriching a Living Faith
  • Black Faith’s Beat Box: Intergenerational Dynamics of Hip Hop
  • Additional Pathways Toward a Faith Future
  • Conclusion
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter 6. Community Capacity Building Toward Nurturing Sanctuary
  • Introduction
  • Enriching a Pedagogy of Faith
  • Tensions of Faith: Navigating the Erotic and the Intergenerational
  • Best Practices Within and Toward Faith Futures
  • Toward Transformative Collaborations and a Broader Justice?
  • Epilogue—A Conversation with Pastor Orinda Hawkins Brinkley
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Index
  • Series index


First and foremost, I give thanks to the God of my understanding, whose Grace enriches each breath and whose gifts lead me to seek the best of myself in fellowship with others. I give thanks to my Ancestors, the known and the unknown. I am especially grateful to the many that were forced to take the journeys across the Atlantic Ocean against their will. I am grateful to be the product of those who lost their lives on the ocean’s waters and those who survived and flourished beyond bondage. My faith includes the belief that I was in my Ancestors’ dreams then. And I hope this exploration of faith is a worthy expression of their hopes and prayers for a better life.

My thanks go to Professor Cynthia B. Dillard. Her interest in the idea for this book began with notes on a napkin during a coffee shop conversation we shared in 2010. I thank her for her belief in the contributions this book could make.

I give thanks also to my “sanity sistas” of professional development. The sistas of our African American Graduate and Professional Student Association (especially Drs. Carlene Brown, Debra Greenwood, and Eileen Hayes) made the vagaries of graduate school move from tolerable to almost fun given the fellowship we shared (along with Ernest, Kevin, and the “brothas”). We did good work then, and we continue to do so across the years. I give thanks to ← XI | XII → Dean Linda Burton, whose guidance, along with Professor Barry Lee, helped make my Penn State postdoctorate years productive. Linda, you opened me up to the value that can result when multiple methods of qualitative research are put to good use. Thank you for sharing your craft and friendship. And I give thanks to my sanity sista extraordinaire, Professor Emeritus Ruth D. Peterson. Thank you, Ruth, for all that you give to, and share with, so many. The quality of your life and career is a model for what sociology can do when done well. As I said in Reconstructing Rage, “perhaps the only thing greater than the quality of your scholarship and willingness to support the growth of others is your humanity.” I am so grateful to know you as mentor and friend, and I would not be sane without you. And Professor Lauren J. Krivo, thank you for all of your thoughtful critiques, feedback, and friendship across the years and for your ongoing support of my possibilities.

I share many thanks for the lives, voices, and thoughtful contributions of the Caring Congregations for Healthy Youth (CoCHY) project participants. I give thanks to Professor Kenneth Steinman, who invited me to participate to manage and take full responsibility for the qualitative methods and data the CoCHY project produced. I give thanks also to my colleagues, Professors Linda James Myers, Elizabeth Cooksey, Randi Love, and Korie Edwards, for their efforts to help produce good data, and to my former doctoral students who were research assistants on the project, Professors Kosi Kubeka and Jason Whitesel. Their contributions and leadership were extremely helpful throughout their CoCHY experiences. I share a very special thank you with the parents, pastors, service learning volunteers, students, and especially, the African American teenagers who provided the honesty and experiences reflected in these pages. The project was challenging for many reasons. Yet throughout, their sustained participations made the many hours worthwhile. Without their willingness, there would have been no project and no book. I hope the participants feel that I have done justice to their commitment to share their faith so thoughtfully.

For their thorough transcriptions, my thanks go to Maren McDaniel and especially Ingrid DeHaan for their high-quality attention to detail and also to Muge Galin for her helpful copy editing throughout the production of this manuscript. I give thanks to William Goldsby, Pastor Orinda Hawkins Brinkley, and Eric Harper for their friendship and thoughtful reflections on the challenges of faith leadership during our discussions in the spring of 2014.

Finally, I share thanks with my family: to my sister Pamela, U.S. Ambassador to Uzbekistan. Holding our grandfather’s Bible from the 1920s ← XII | XIII → as you were being sworn in at the State Department was among the great Blessings of my life. Her professional excellence is mixed with the depth of her faith search, and I am grateful to have shared in both. Pat, as a public health practitioner and scholar, I appreciate your willingness to recreate yourself in so many ways. This, all the while growing and raising your family, is a testament to your flexible excellence. Paula, I have been amazed at the depth of your faith since I was a kid and you were in high school. You have done Goodwill Baptist Church proud across the years. And I very much appreciate how you and Pat use sports in your lifework and many ways of mission. I give thanks to my brother, Khalfani, who dedicated his life to Pan-African devotion many years ago. Khalfani, I continue to appreciate you as an eniyan ti igbagbo nla (Yoruba for “person of great faith”). Thanks also go to my Mom, Dr. Lois Price Spratlen, to whom this book is dedicated. With each sunset’s arrival I am reminded of our conversation about faith, as we sat at the kitchen table at 809 many years ago. When I asked her if she believed in God, she paused and said, “God for me is in the beauty of the sunset. In the Olympic mountains, the Puget Sound, and in the evergreens. God is in the dogwood tree leaves and in the memory of my mother. God for me is so many things.” Mom, I love you always. And finally, thanks go to my father, Professor Emeritus Thaddeus H. Spratlen. Dad, you are a pastor’s son and a person of profound character and spiritual depth. I think I appreciate your patient kindness and passionate sense of justice most of all. Your support and encouragement across the writing of this book were vital. I love you, Dad, and admire you in ways beyond words. ← XIII | XIV →

← XVI | 1 → ·1·


Pedagogy and Tensions of Nurturing Sanctuary

Culture comes from the Latin word cultus, which means “to care for.” At its heart, it has to do with growth: of crops (as in the word “cultivate”), or of peoples. Culture is a set of [symbolic and material] ideas, practices, and rituals that help human beings develop morally, intellectually, and spiritually.

— Terrance MacMullan1

The Negro of America needs an Age of Faith. All great ages are ages of faith. It is absolutely necessary for a new people to begin their career with the religious verities…. Christianity is contrary to the spirit of caste—spiritual kinship transcends all other relations…. No matter what destiny awaits the race, religion is necessary either as a solvent or as a salve.


XVI, 199
ISBN (Hardcover)
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2016 (February)
family and churches black studies servicing community
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2015. 216 pp.

Biographical notes

Townsand Price-Spratlen (Author)

Townsand Price-Spratlen (PhD, University of Washington) is Associate Professor of Sociology at Ohio State University. He is an urban sociologist who researches historical and contemporary community capacity building. His current focus is analyzing grassroots and faith-affiliated organizations to better understand how faith informs health, well-being, and social justice outcomes.


Title: Nurturing Sanctuary
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218 pages