In 1997, nationally-known writer Paul Wilkes led a three-day revival at Church of the Presentation in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. It was an experience unlike anything he'd ever had before. The church was exciting. The people loved to be there. They welcomed strangers into their community. The outreach, and the reverence, were real.

     He wondered, were there not other churches like this one? And shouldn't people know about these authentic and deeply spiritual places? So began the Parish/Congregation Study, a two-year project funded by the Lilly Endowment based at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington that searched the nation for excellent local churches. Some 600 Catholic parishes and Protestant churches eventually were found and contacted for further information. The Parish/Congregation Study staff visited 17 of them, spending time with the church's pastor, congregation and community, getting to know the people and experiencing the life of the church.
Parish Congregation Study

Excellent Catholic Parishes
Excellent Protestant Churches
Criteria for assessing Parishes and Congregations

     Those 17 churches and parishes are featured in two recently published books:   Excellent Catholic Parishes: The Guide to Best Places and Practices from Paulist Press and Excellent Protestant Congregations: The Guide to Best Places and Practices from Westminster John Knox You can order the books through the publishers, from your local bookstore or through
The news about these life-changing, community-building churches demanded an even wider audience than the books. In conjunction with the Institute for Church Life at the University of Notre Dame, the Parish/Congregation Study research team created the Pastoral Summit, funded by a new grant from the Lilly Endowment, so this wealth of information could be exchanged.