CRCC Director of Research Richard Flory and Executive Director of the Cecil Murray Center for Community Engagement Mark Whitlock have appeared in an article in Christianity Today discussing the effect of demographic changes on black churches in South Los Angeles.
According to the article, the ethnic makeup of Los Angeles has been changing since the 1990’s, where once-black neighborhoods are now predominantly Latino. And the newest manifestation of this identity shift has been the transformation of traditional community churches to ‘commuter’ churches.
An excerpt from the article:
Many black churches have declined in attendance; some now have just over a dozen worshipers, Flory said. “There is a point at which they have to create programs and services that draw [the neighborhood] in,” he said. “The church is a core part of the black community. I don’t know how that will work with other ethnic groups.”
Commuter members drive 30 minutes to an hour to attend the South Los Angeles churches where they once lived. But rising gas prices and scarce parking (many churches were built when members only walked to services) have caused many to relocate to churches closer to their current homes, said Mark Whitlock, senior minister of Christ Our Redeemer AME Church in Irvine. He was responsible for community development at First AME Church in South Los Angeles for 15 years, and saw the shift firsthand.
“It’s not the first time there has been a demographic shift in Los Angeles, but it has clearly devastated some houses of worship,” Whitlock said.
Historically, black churches have always had an active role in their communities, but today face the challenge of serving a community that has a different culture, worship style, and language.