My research explores the role of spaces and buildings in religious life and religious experience. I have written on this subject in two monographs,  When Church Became Theatre: The Transformation of Evangelical Architecture and Worship (Oxford University Press, 2002) and Sacred Power, Sacred Space: An Introduction to Christian Architecture (Oxford University Press, 2008), and, most recently, in my edited collection: The Oxford Handbook of Religious Space (Oxford University Press, 2022). 

I have also published several articles and chapters on religious space, including “Material Expression and Mary Baker Eddy’s Boston Churches: How Architecture and Gender Compromised Mind” (Material Religion 2005),  “The Park 51/Ground Zero Controversy and Sacred Sites as Contested Space”  (Religions 2011) , “Approaching Religious Space: An Overview of Theories, Methods, and Challenges in Religious Studies” (Religion & Theology, 2014), and "For Sale or Let: Religious Space as Commodity in a Globalized World" in Sacred Architecture East and West (Marymount Institute Press, 2019). 

Since 2011, I have also been a co-lead researcher on a digital research project, titled the Houses of Worship in the Twin Cities (1849-1924), which is mapping the religious landscape of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, in an effort to examine interactions among religious and ethnic groups in this period of early immigration. This project has branched out into the North Minneapolis Houses of Worship Preservation Project, which has been working toward nominating three houses of worship in North Minneapolis to the National Register of Historic Places.  The material we have collected also informs my current writing project on the changing religious landscape in the United States.  

Currently, I am also working on an article on the role of post-WWII college campus chapels, particularly those designed by architect Eero Saarinen, in advancing ecumenical understandings of spirituality.  

Apart from my work on religious space, I have also authored Nature and Revelation: A History of Macalester College (University of Minnesota Press, 2010), and co-edited Rapture, Revelation and the End Times: Exploring the Left Behind Series (Palgrave Macmillan 2004).

I was founding member and co-chair of the Space, Place and Religious Meaning program unit of the American Academy of Religion, and I regularly address both scholarly and community groups on subjects related to religion in the United States, particularly religious diversity and religious space.  Since 2008, I have directed the interdepartmental Religious Studies Program, which  involves both administrative and teaching responsibilities.  In that capacity, I co-founded and serve as current chair of the Religion and the Public University Collaborative (RPUC). My courses focus on U.S. religious history, theory and method in the study of religions, women and religion, and religious ritual and sites.


Educational Background & Specialties
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Educational Background

  • Ph.D.: American Studies, University of Minnesota, 1991 -
  • M.A.: English, University of Wisconsin--Eau Claire, 1982 -
  • B.A.: English, University of Wisconsin--Eau Claire


  • Religious architecture and sacred space
  • Theory and method in the study of religion
  • Religion in America
  • Women and religion
  • Evangelicalism