For the purposes of this observation paper, you will observe TWO (2) religious services (virtually and online is permitted but not as valuable) for places of worship outside of your own religious tradition. The goal here is to view/experience religious services for two religious traditions with which you are not already familiar. After you describe your new experience and observations, you will then engage in a comparison and contrast exercise not only with your own preconceptions & your own faith, but also with the first religious center you visited earlier this term.
Again, let me emphasize: this assignment requires two different observations of religious services outside of your own religious tradition. Not one, but two (2).
What do I mean by religions outside of your own religious tradition? Here’s an example: If you are Presbyterian, you should not simply observe a Lutheran and a Methodist religious service. These Christian faiths are different, but still too similar; the religious service in this case, should be something further afield outside of the umbrella of Christianity–for example, a Buddhist, an Islamic, or a Sikh religious service. (You are welcome to observe religions services for religions we will not be discussing in this class.)
The goal of the assignment is to observe religious services for religious traditions with which you are not already familiar. You will vividly detail and describe your experiences and compare and contrast your observations of each service with each other as well as with your preconceptions and your own religious faith/upbringing. So again, there are two parts here: first, describe your experience/viewing of each of the two places of worship and detailing the religious service you viewed; second, please compare and contrast the religious service you observed with (a.) the other religious service you observed, (b.) your preconceptions/expectations about these religions/religious services, and (c.) as well as with your own religious background (or non-religious background for that matter).
The Comparison & Contrast Component
Either interspersed throughout the paper or at the end of the paper, you will also need to compare and contrast these two religious services you have observed, as well as how they compare and contrast with the religious practices within your own religious tradition (if you have one). What is similar between the virtual experiences (and your own religious tradition, if any)? What is different about these two religious centers and religious services? In what ways? Be as specific and descriptive as you can, given the online medium: the more vivid and detailed a picture you can present your reader the better.
A Descriptive Paper, Not A Research Paper
The paper is a descriptive paper, not a research paper: if you find yourself doing book, library, or internet research, you are doing this assignment wrong. You should also refrain from simply rehashing information about the religion, place of worship, and its practices that were provided to you (perhaps on their websites); rather, the paper should be based on your own observations and experiences. The point of the assignment is to use your paper to take your reader on a journey with you: show your reader what you observed and took in during your experience of these places of worship and religious services in as much vivid detail as you can. I want to feel like I am seeing and hearing and observing what you saw, heard, and observed when I read your paper. Be as descriptive and detailed as you can: show me, don’t just tell me; the more particular details and anecdotes you can use to paint a picture of your experience, the better.
How to Proceed
When writing your paper, a good place to begin might be your preconceptions. What did you expect to see in the religious services given what you already might know or think about the religions in question, either from the course or from elsewhere? What were your assumptions about these religions going into the visit? How did you envision them? You might want to read ahead about the religious traditions you are visiting, if we have not covered it in the course already.
Next, describe your experiences of the religious services you observed in as much detail as you can. This includes stating the exact names of the places of worship you virtually experienced as well as the dates and times of the services you viewed. Make your description as detailed as you can, and base it on your own observations/experiences and not (largely) based what you may have read in the textbook or online. You may wish to rely on notes you take during your visits and viewings. Try to paint as vivid and accurate picture for your reader as you can. Here are some example questions to think about and potentially address:
- What is each place of worship like – the architecture, the interior, exterior spaces?
- What do the religious practitioners do at their place of worship?
- What is each religious service like? How is it ordered? Is there a formalized practice of worship? How is the time used?
- What are the roles of women in particular?
- Is their music/art/dancing? What sorts? Is it formally involved in ritual/worship, or does it have a relaxed, informal role?
- What sorts of texts or scriptures are used, if any?
- What sorts of practices or rituals are performed? What objects are involved in rituals? Who performs them?
- Can you tell the difference between what is considered sacred (or taboo) and what is treated as ordinary (or everyday)?
- Were there any overt elements of religious doctrine/belief system, religious ethics/morals, and religious experience/emotions that you observed?
After you describe your new experience and observations, you will then engage in a comparison and contrast exercise—not only between the two religious services you viewed online (what is similar? what was different?)—but also both with (1) your own preconceptions about the religious tradition you visited, and also (2) with your own religious tradition/religious faith (if any) and your experiences therein.
(1) In making your description (or afterwards) address the question of how the religious service you observed met or challenged your expectations from what you’ve already learned (if anything (yet)!) from the course or from your own preconceptions. What did you see that was expected? What was unexpected? How did your experience live up to or challenge your expectations? Describe the ways in which it was like what you thought it would be and describe the ways in which it was quite different from your expectations. What did you learn that was new from this experience? Feel free to draw on concepts we have learned about religion in general (Module/ Chapter 1) and from the specific religion you are observing, in order to enhance your discussion and make it more specific; still, don’t get bogged down in technical exposition of background detail on the religion—it is not the point of the paper to rehash what you know from class or research about the religious faith in question.
(2) Next, you should also discuss how this religious service compares to or contrasts with the religious services/experiences in your own religious tradition or faith (if you have one or grew up with one/several). What is similar? What is different? In what ways? Be as specific and descriptive as you can: the more vivid and detailed a picture you can present your reader the better.
When visiting places of worship, be sure to remain respectful while being observant: many religious communities will not allow use of electronics or even note-taking during a religious service. Please find out the center’s expectations regarding your attire and behavior prior to attending. Places of worship may have extra restrictions and rules regarding visitors become of the Covid-19 pandemic as well: this means, IMPORTANTLY, before you attend religious services outside of your tradition, please contact them in advance to find out about any requirements or requests they might have for visitors, observers, or attendees (including, e.g., visitor policies, Covid-19 precautions, wardrobe requirements, preferred visiting times, technology use, or note-taking ability). This will save everyone involved time and frustration. Contact information for most religious centers can be found online as well as on the The Pluralism Project Website, which provides a list of Atlanta area (or other metro) Religious Centers.
Do you need help with this assignment or any other? We got you! Place your order and leave the rest to our experts.