How do people practice religion in their everyday lives? How do our daily encounters with people who hold different religious beliefs shape the way we understand our own moral and spiritual selves? In Heaven's Kitchen, Courtney Bender takes a highly original approach to answering these questions. For more than a year she worked in New York City as a volunteer for a nonprofit, nonreligious organization called God's Love We Deliver, helping to prepare home-cooked meals for people with AIDS. Paying close attention to what was said and not said, Bender traces how the volunteers gave voice to their moral positions and religious values. She also examines how they invested their conversations, and mundane activities such as cooking, with personal meaning that in turn affected how they saw their own spiritual lives. Filled with vibrant storytelling and rich theoretical insights, Heaven's Kitchen shows faith as a living practice, reshaping our understanding of the role of religion in contemporary American life.
Of Mennonite background, Bender (sociology and religion, Columbia Univ.) examines religious discussion in contemporary American life by reporting on the experiences she had in doing volunteer work for a nonprofit, nonreligious organization, where she prepared and delivered meals for homebound people with AIDS. Bender's ethnographic field research was conducted in 1994 and 1995 at a New York City agency called God's Love We Deliver (GLWD). While working in the kitchen, she participated in a great deal of informal talk among volunteers. She found that despite the nonreligious nature of the organization (contrary to its name), the work at GLWD frequently gave rise to religious discussion, typically focused on churchgoing, holidays, and joking about the beliefs of celebrities. Bender concludes that honest, open conversation about religion must be based on trust. She also came to realize the extent to which her own moods influenced her attention to the feelings of others. Begun as a doctoral dissertation in sociology at Princeton University, this book contains an extensive scholarly bibliography. Recommended for large academic and seminary libraries, AIDS collections, and those interested in the nuances of communication.-Joyce Smothers, M.L.S., student, Princeton Theological Seminary, NJ Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
1. Decorating Holiday Bags at the Friends Seminary, Making Dinner in the Kitchen
2. The Meals Are the Message: God's Love We Deliver, 1985 to 1994
3. Getting the Meals Out: Daily Life in the Kitchen
4. Religious Practice in the Kitchen
5. What We Talk about When We Talk about Religion
6. Doing Something about AIDS
Conclusion: Hints Followed by Guesses
Appendix: Studying Religion at God's Love We Deliver