Religious traditions provide the stories and rituals that define the core values of church members. Yet, modern life in America can make those customs seem undesirable, even impractical. As a result, many congregations refashion church traditions so they remain powerful and salient. How do these transformations occur? How do clergy and worshippers negotiate which aspects should be preserved or discarded? Focusing on the invations of several mainline Protestant churches in the San Francisco Bay Area, Stephen Ellingson's The Megachurch and the Mainline provides new understandings of the transformation of spiritual traditions. For Ellingson, these particular congregations typify a new kind of Lutheranism - one which combines the evangelical approaches that are embodied in the growing legion of megachurches with American society's emphasis on pragmatism and consumerism. Here, Ellingson provides vivid descriptions of congregations as they sacrifice hymns in favor of rock music and scrap traditional white robes and stoles for Hawaiian shirts, while also making readers aware of the long history of similar attempts to Americanize the Lutheran tradition. This is an important examination of a religion in flux - one that speaks to the growing popularity of evangelicalism in America.
Stephen Ellingson is assistant professor of sociology at Hamilton College. He is coeditor of The Sexual Organization of the City, also published by the University of Chicago Press.