Worship services may still be the nation’s most segregated hour, but fewer congregations are now completely white, according to a study comparing churches, synagogues and mosques last year with a decade ago.
The National Congregations Study said 14 percent of primarily white congregations reported no minorities in their midst last year, compared with 20 percent in 1998.
Such steep change in a short period is noteworthy because “religious traditions and organizations are widely considered to be remarkably resistant to change,” said sociology professor Mark Chaves of Duke University School of Divinity.
The study, in the journal Sociology of Religion, compares 1,505 congregations in 2006-07 with 1,234 in 1998. It is based on surveys by the National Opinion Research Center at University of Chicago. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.5 percentage points for 2006-07 data, 3 percentage points for 1998 data.
The increase in diversity is only among primarily white churches; black churches are as segregated as ever, Chaves said. The percentage of primarily white congregations reporting at least some blacks rose from 27 percent in 1998 to 36 percent; those reporting some Hispanics rose from 24 percent to 32 percent.
Worship is also “more informal and more enthusiastic by every measure,” Chaves said, with more shouting, clapping and hands raised overhead in praise. Use of drums in worship jumped 70 percent from 1998. “We find drums almost everywhere, even Catholic and Jewish services,” he said.