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Religious Visit Essay


     Visit a place of worship or a religious service event, one that is new to you, and report on it.  In most cases, this will be a visit to a religious service. This is intended to be a descriptive or “phenomenological” account of the religious activity, neither laudatory nor critical. On this particular occasion, the purpose is just to observe carefully and empathetically in the way discussed in Chapter 1.  It is also assumed that this report is to be based on first-hand observation, deliberately avoiding the use of secondary sources, so citations and bibliography are not necessarily needed. However, in some cases you may need to get a little background through prior reading, or through material available at the religious site, to understand better what you see. Interviews may also be helpful, as well as perusing the website for the group, if available.  Afterwards, if you research for deeper understanding, that work is certainly welcome in your paper.  To focus of this assignment is the “hands-on” experience

     Most religious places welcome sincere students as visitors. Remember to be quiet, respectful, appreciative, and appropriately dressed. Inquiries beforehand are always helpful. Please follow these guidelines and discuss/present based on the following:

1.      Field information. Give the full name, exact address, and religious affiliation of the group. (For example, don’t just say “a Buddhist temple”; be sure to specify the school or denomination, and the national background.) Give the exact date and time of the visit; give the name and type of service (if any) attended.

2.      Preliminary placing information. Describe the outside and inside appearance of the building, the way visitors are greeted, and the sort of people in this group (that is, their apparent social class, lifestyle, ethnic background, gender, average age, number present, and so forth).

3.      Description of activity or symbolism. If you attend a service or formal presentation on the religion, describe what happened from beginning to end. Try to give some sense of the emotional tone and subjective spiritual meaning of the scenario. (For example, was the opening dramatic or casual, is congregational participation emotional or reserved, and is much of the service spontaneous or ritualized?)

     Finally, based on your observations and study of this religion in this class, your report should indicate the answers to the following questions:

1.   What is the basic problem addressed by this religion and what causes that problem according to this religion? 

2.   What are the means; how does this religion attempt to solve this problem?  How does it help a person move towards a transformation? What does one need to do? 

3.  Finally, what is sacred?  What is the end or desired result?

So, be sure to (1) identity the problem, (2) identify the means, and (3) identify the end (the result of practicing this religion) recognizing that these are the three fundamental functions of most any religion.

NOTE: If you did not attend a regular service, discuss in detail the significance of the art, architecture, and symbolism in and around the site. Also, if you did NOT attend a regular service, then you should actually interview someone who is a practitioner of that religion so you can write a meaningful report.

This project is intended to be helpful, interesting, and informative.  So enjoy the experience. 



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