It Comes from the People

Community Development and Local Theology

Mary Ann Hinsdale, Helen M. Lewis and S. Maxine Waller
Co-winner for the Transformational Politics Book Award, American Political Science Association, 1996
Book Cover

PB: $34.95
EAN: 978-1-56639-212-9
Publication: May 95

HC: $83.50
EAN: 978-1-56639-211-2
Publication: Jun 95

400 pages
6 x 9
3 figs., 25 halftones, 1 maps

An Appalachian community develops a theology of liberation

Read an excerpt from Chapter 1 (pdf).


The closing of local mines and factories collapsed the economic and social structure of Ivanhoe, Virginia, a small, rural town once considered a dying community "on the rough side of the mountain." Documenting the creative survival techniques developed by Ivanhoe citizens in the aftermath, It Comes from the People tells how this community organized to revitalize the town and demand participation in its future.

Photos, interviews, stories, songs, poems, and scenes from a local theater production tell how this process of rebuilding gradually uncovered the community's own local theology and a growing consciousness of cultural and religious values. A significant aspect of this social transformation in Ivanhoe, as in many rural areas, was the emergence of women as leaders, educators, and organizers, developing new approaches to revive the economy and the people simultaneously.

This book is unusually open about the difficult process faced by outside researchers working with community members to describe community life. It discusses the inherent dilemmas frankly and presents a model for those who engage in community studies and ethnographic research.

Table of Contents

Foreword – Robert McAfee Brown
Preface – Louis F. McNeil

Introduction – Mary Ann Hinsdale and Helen M. Lewis

Part I: The Community Development Process: A Case Study
Introduction – Helen M. Lewis
1. Historical Background
2. Organizing and Mobilizing the Community
3. Confronting and Using Power
4. Getting Educated
5. Using Culture in Community Development
6. Leadership and Organizational Development
7. Insiders, Outsiders, and Participatory Research

Part II: Local Theology in a Rural Mountain Community
Introduction – Mary Ann Hinsdale
8. Reading and Using the Bible
9. Theology from the People
10. Ritual and Ethics
11. Emerging Women's Voices: "Unlearning to Not Speak"
12. Ministry: Within and Without
13. The Churches and Community Development

Epilogue – Mary Ann Hinsdale, Helen M. Lewis, and S. Maxine Waller
Appendix A: Context and Methodology
Appendix B: Scenes and Songs from It Came from Within

About the Author(s)

Mary Ann Hinsdale is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester Massachusetts.

Helen M. Lewis is Interim Director of the Appalachian Center at Berea College in Kentucky.

S. Maxine Waller is President of the Ivanhoe Civic League and directs community-based student volunteer programs in Virginia.