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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

Gentrification in an Urban Church: Reproducing Segregation in a Neighborhood Institution

luncheon colloquium

charlestown cemetery
Photo credit: EdJohnston. License:

Erick Berrelleza, S.J.
Boston University

Date: Monday, October 15, 2018
Time: 12-1:15pm
Location: Boisi Center, 24 Quincy Road

RSVP required. Click here to register.

Abstract: This lecture will discuss the intersection of neighborhood change and parish reconfiguration in rapidly-gentrifying Charlestown, MA. The merger of two Roman Catholic churches has unsettled the congregational cultures, just as gentrification is unsettling broader neighborhood dynamics. Based on findings from 28 in-depth interviews and participant-observation conducted from October 2014 - May 2015, the project examines the spatial reproduction in the sanctuary of the existing neighborhood segregation of Latinos and the poorest longtime residents from the housing projects. Affluent newcomers and “Townies” – stalwart residents who have weathered earlier waves of neighborhood upscaling – form power alliances with the effect of the exclusion of the poorest residents in the shared space of this religious institution. Institutional decisions, the desire to maintain ethnic enclaves, and tacit messages of group exclusion reify the race and class divisions of the neighborhood within the walls of the church.  

erick berrelleza

Erick Berrelleza, S.J., is a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Boston University. His research interests lie primarily in the sociology of religion and urban sociology. His current work focuses on lived religion and place.

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Berrelleza Interview
Click to view Powerpoint slides.


Stained Glass Window from Charlestown, MA

The Boston Globe reported on a former Catholic church in Charlestown, Massachusetts which has recently been converted into a Dollar Tree in June of 2018. This rare development caters to low income individuals in an area which has rapidly gentrified in recent years, but has some long-time residents feeling skeptical. On October 15th the Boisi Center will host Erick Berrelleza for a luncheon colloquium on neighborhood change and parish reconfiguration focusing on Charlestown, MA.