The Center for the Study and Practice of Urban Religion (C-SPUR), formerly the Ecologies of Learning Project (EOL), is a research and action Center based at New York Theological Seminary. Founded by the late Dr. Lowell W. Livezey, former Professor of Urban Studies and Religion, NYTS received a grant in 2004 for the Ecologies of Learning project which developed into the Center for the Study and Practice of Urban Religion (C-SPUR) in 2009. The Rev. Moses O. Biney, Ph.D is the current faculty director of C-SPUR.

As an interactive network of scholars, seminary students, clergy, and community leaders in metropolitan New York, C-SPUR is committed to producing knowledge and events that are useful and empowering to communities of faith, neighborhoods, government and private agencies. C-SPUR accomplishes this by including members of NYC communities in planning and research, to help strengthen and transform our City and empower religious communities as agents in the City. We share our findings and sponsor public events, strengthening communities of faith as agents in the City.

At C-SPUR people work together to learn about the impact of communities of faith in New York City and beyond. We conduct research to determine how churches, synagogues, mosques, temples and other religious organizations shape the City, and how changes in the City affect these institutions. The goal of C-SPUR is to help religious leaders, scholars, public officials and secular organizations understand communities of faith and the role of religion in urban life.


The Center for the Study and Practice of Urban Religion (C-SPUR), formerly the Ecologies of Learning Project (EOL), has fostered scholarship on the mutual impact of religion and urban change, especially in Metro New York. We focus on how congregations interact with social forces related to globalization transforming City life. Research associates have produced and edited the forthcoming volume, Ecologies of Faith: The Evolution of Religious Institutions in New York, and Religious Communities and Global Cities: A Tribute to Lowell W. Livezey, ed. Lois Gehr Livezey, (Vol. Winter, Cross Currents, 2008) in addition to other journal publications.

How does religion impact the city? How does the city impact religion?

We research these questions by studying faith- based organizations and neighborhoods throughout the metropolitan area, and collaborate with our research subjects using interviews, observations, discussion groups, surveys, and other tools. More than 300 students have studied congregations and religious institutions since EOL’s inception.
Dr. Courtney Bender, (Associate Professor, Columbia University Department of Religion) contends that

“C-SPUR is making a unique and important contribution to our understanding of urban sociology and urban religions. They are focusing on congregations and local communities to help social scientists, as well as theologians and ministers, better understand how religious institutions influence local and global social landscapes.”

C-SPUR encourages scholars interested in conducting research in all aspects of urban life to contact the Center.


C-SPUR teaches individuals how to use ethnography and sociological research skills to study and evaluate churches, neighborhoods and religious institutions by engaging students in ongoing field-based research. These skills help clergy and lay people to be more effective agents of transformation in the urban environment.

C-SPUR offers courses available to NYTS students, other seminarians and graduate students (by cross registration), and religious leaders and community members (by registration as auditors).

C-SPUR also serves as a field education site for seminary students from NYTS and other institutions.

Program & Advocacy

C-SPUR seeks to build partnerships and create networks with research centers, educational institutions, policy institutes, government agencies, organizations and individuals, both religious and secular, that seek the welfare of the City and citizens.

C-SPUR sponsors numerous events and programs to share research, resources and expertise relevant to urban communities, urban ministry and urban policy.  Forum topics include “Religion Youth and the Justice System,” “Faith-Based Institutions and Housing Development” and “Breath of Life: Creating Healthy Communities.”