This annual award recognizes an outstanding monograph in Religious Studies written by a member in good standing of the Canadian Society for the Study of Religion and published during the previous five years (currently those with a copyright date of 2011-2015). The books submitted are evaluated on their a) relevance to Religious Studies as a discipline; b) their currency of subject matter to debates and developments in the field; c) their quality of style, presentation, research, and methodology; and d) their originality. Out of fifteen book submissions this year, yours was chosen to meet the criteria at the highest level.
The Adjudication Committee stated, in its decision, that: A Church with the Soul of a Nation is a book that will establish itself as the starting point for any scholarly discussion of the United Church of Canada and its place in national history. As Mark Noll states on the back cover of the book, in the coming years no one can tell the story of religion in Canada without acknowledging the history Airhart so ably unfolds. Airhart writes history well and the story she unfolds flows in excellent prose. The story she tells of the founding and the early history of the founders’ ambition to be a national church, at least for English speaking Canada, is both fascinating and engaging. As she brings the story into the post-war years and through to the 21st century, we have an insightful recounting of the United Church at the pinnacle of popularity followed by its decline into demographic and fiscal crisis. It is unusual to have a book to consider for a prize that is of such quality that it defines its subject matter for subsequent scholarship. Airhart, with A Church with the Soul of a Nation, does just that. The author thus richly deserves the CSSR/SCÉR book prize for 2016.