Visit to an Unfamiliar Place of Worship – The Seven Dimensions of Religion

Assignment: Visit a place of worship of a religion that is not your own, and not one that you attended with your parents or grandparents — nothing familiar to you. If you are a Christian, you may go to a Christian church, but not one belonging to the same denomination as your church. For example, if you are a Baptist, do not go to another Baptist church. You will get more out of the experience if you get far outside your comfort zone and attend something completely different. Feel free to take friends or family members with you. Note: Please check their website before you attend. This will make your visit more enjoyable because you will have more facts about the place of worship, including whether or not they have childcare.

Note:  You must go inside the place of worship and attend the weekly service when the community gathers to listen to the sermon/homily and to worship together. Going into a place after hours, when there is no service, does not meet the requirements for this paper. Attending a wedding, a funeral, a festival in a park, a peace service in a park, or any other one-time special event does not qualify.  Also, please do not go to Mepkin Abbey, which is a monastery, not a regular Catholic church where a community of men, women, and children worships together weekly.

Childcare: Not all places of worship will have childcare facilities. Usually their website will state if they have childcare available during the service.

You may not use a previous visit: Do not use any previous visit, such as going to a mosque in the Middle East a few years ago. You must have a new experience during this semester. If you use a previous visit you will receive a zero, and there will be no opportunity for a re-write.

Imaginary Visits: This does not happen often, but over the years two students have “faked” a visit to a place of worship (written about an imaginary visit). That is unethical, and is similar to plagiarism. A student who fakes a visit will receive a zero and Academic Misconduct. There will be no opportunity for a re-write.

Please give your honest feelings and conclusions about the experience. Being open-minded does not mean that you have to pretend to like something that you did not.  It is all right to say that you did not agree with the rituals, or that you found the people to be cold and unwelcoming, or that you did not agree with the teachings. I do not judge your experience. I just want you to report it honestly. You will not lose marks if you had a negative experience or if you disagreed with most of what you saw and heard.

This assignment is an “experience.” An experience requires both thinking and feeling. Be sure to balance thinking and feeling as you write every paragraph. Do not include any research in this essay, except for paragraphs four and six, if necessary.

The following information needs to be in the top let corner of your essay:

Your Name:

Name of Course: REL 101 – W02 (or whatever your course number is)

Title: Visit to a Hindu Temple

Instructor: Ms. Carol Lawson

You do not have to follow the MLA format since this is not a research paper; however, you still need to use proper spelling and grammar.

Before You Go: You do not need to do any research; however, if we have not yet studied the religion before you go, be sure to read the chapter on that religion. You will have a better understanding of what you are seeing.

(Typed, double-spaced, 1” margins, Times New Roman 12)

Paragraph one: (5%) Tell me in the first paragraph the name of the place of worship that you visited, its location, and the date that you visited. In one sentence briefly identify your religion or philosophy – Christian, Muslim, agnostic, atheist, etc.  Describe the architecture (material expression) as you approached the building. Note: An experiencerequires both feeling and thinking. How did the architecture express the beliefs of that religion? (Thinking) How did you feel approaching a new place of worship? (Feeling) How did the people welcome you? (Feeling)

Copy (cut and paste) all the following red words as your first heading:

Dimension One: Doctrinal and philosophical (This is the belief structure and intellectual framework. It means that every religion has beliefs that they have thought through and organized. 12%

Question: What aspect of their belief system did the worship leader talk about that day? Note: This is an experiential paper, so please do not give an in-depth analysis of their history and beliefs.

 Copy all of the following red words:

Dimension Two: Social and Institutional – This refers to the community that practices the beliefs. Beliefs must be shared. How do parents, grandparents and the rest of the community pass down their beliefs to their children in order to ensure the survival of the religion?  12%

Questions: How did they pass on their beliefs to you as you visited? What did you notice about the people who formed the community?  How did they participate in the service? Was the leadership patriarchal? Inclusive? Exclusive? Were women equal leaders? How did the clothes that they wore express their beliefs? Were children present? Would someone from the LGBT community feel welcome? How did they share their beliefs with each other and with you, as a new comer?

Copy all of the following red words:

Dimension Three: Narrative and Mythic – These are the important stories of the religion. Myths are the stories that express the religious beliefs of a group.  The stories are told and retold, and are often reenacted. 12%

Questions: Did the worship leader discuss any of their important myths/stories? Briefly tell the story. What person or people were in the story? What did they do? What makes this story a religious story rather than a story about a family that goes on vacation to Disney World? Why is it an important myth/story to that religion? If the religious leader did not discuss a myth, then use your textbook or other source to describe one of that religion’s important stories/myths. If the leader is speaking a foreign language, use your textbook or other source to give an example of an important story in that religion. You might also look around at the architecture, symbols, paintings, stained glass, etc., in order to see an important story expressed through the use of art.

Copy all the following red words:

Dimension Four: Rituals – Definition on p. 31: “A ritual is a repeated, patterned religious act.”  A ritual is something that people do in order to express their beliefs. A ritual is not spontaneous. It has been passed down generation to generation. 12%

Questions: What rituals and ritual objects did you notice during your visit? How were the ritual objects used to create a sense of the Sacred? What do you think was the purpose of the ritual? Every place of worship has rituals, even those places that claim that they do not have rituals. Group prayer is a ritual. Entering a sacred building every Sunday at 11:00 a.m. is a weekly ritual. Singing sacred words or chanting sacred words is a ritual. Opening a holy book every Sunday in church and reading the words together is a ritual.

Copy all of the following red words:

Dimension Five: Ethical and Legal – Religions have laws or taboos to guide the behavior of people. They also have sacrifices that must be made if you break a taboo. A taboo is any kind of behavior that you should not do. 12%

Did the worship leader discuss ethics? Did she or he discuss any taboo that should not be broken or any law that should be obeyed? If she or he did not discuss ethics in depth that day, use your textbook or other source to find an example of something that particular religion believes that people should or should not do. However, most religious services do mention ethics, if not in the sermon/homily, then in a prayer or in a hymn/chant/song.

Copy all the following red words:

Dimension Six: Material Expression Part One: People create physical objects to express their beliefs. Examples are: statues, paintings, books, musical instruments, incense containers, clothing, masks, sacred buildings, etc.6%

Were there statues, paintings, musical instruments, holy books, incense, special robes, or other forms of material expression that were created by people?  How were these objects used to create a sense of the sacred during worship? How did the architecture inside the building express their beliefs?

Copy all the following red words:

Element Six: Material Expression Part Two: There is also the “material” aspect that is not created by humans, but is found in nature, such as a sacred tree, a sacred waterfall, or a sacred mountain. 6%

Were there any flowers or water or anything else from nature (not created by people) that you observed during the service? What was their sacred purpose?

Copy all the following red words:

Element Seven: Experiential and Emotional – When people have an experience of God/Sacred Reality, there is an emotion that they feel. 12%

What was the community of worshippers doing that made it an experience? Some examples are praying, singing, and dancing.

What did the community of worshippers appear to be feeling during those experiences? What did you feel? Some of the emotions that are felt during the experience of God/Sacred Reality are inner peace, joy, awe, ecstasy, and bliss.

Copy all of the following red words:

Reflection on my visit: (11%)

Please answer the following questions in your reflection:

ü Were all of the seven dimensions of religion present during the worship service that you attended?

ü What conclusions did you draw about the seven dimensions of religions as they were reflected in the place of worship that you visited? (Thinking)

ü Are the seven dimensions of religion present in your religion?  Does your religion have beliefs, rituals, community, ethics, etc.?

ü What insights did you gain about the seven dimensions of religion and religion in general after your visit? (Thinking)

ü How did the experience affect you? (Feeling)

ü Were you surprised by anything?

ü Did you enjoy the service? Did you feel welcomed by the community? Were you glad that you went? (Feeling)

ü  – any other comments that you wish to make

Length of Essay: Your essay should total a minimum of 1300 words, including the red headings.

List of Suggested Places of Worship:

Note:  Roman Catholics – Since Vatican II (1965), Roman Catholics have been allowed to visit non-Catholic places of worship as long as they do nothing during the visit that goes against Catholic teachings. On page 358 of your textbook, you can see a photo of Pope Benedict XVI praying in a mosque.

Note: Muslims – Many Muslim scholars teach that Muslims are allowed to visit other places of worship, as long as the Muslim does not go against Muslim teachings during the visit, such as bowing to an idol. If you are a Muslim and are not sure about this, please check with your imam.

Judaism – www.kkbe.org  – Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim – Address: 90 Hasell St., Charleston 29401 – Phone: 843-723-1090.  Check the website for times. This is the second oldest synagogue/temple in the U.S. You do not need to call first, but if you do call them, they will assign a guide for you. Dress well, but you do not need to wear a suit.  Slacks for women are OK. It is best to go to the Friday evening family service because more people attend that, but there is a Saturday morning service as well.  The service is in English and Hebrew. Because the form of Judaism practiced there is Reform Judaism, the rabbi is a woman. There is a museum there as well; if you phone them, you can arrange to have someone guide you through the museum.

NOTE: Unfortunately, since the shootings at Mother Emanuel church in Charleston, many synagogues have been getting anti-Semitic threats. This synagogue used to be one of the students’ favorite places to visit, and the people made them feel very welcome. Lately, however, because of the anti-Semitic threats, the synagogue has had to hire police officers that greet you and ask you a few questions before letting you enter. This has made some students feel unwelcome. If this would discourage you, please choose a different place of worship.

Islam – Central Mosque of Charleston – www.charlestonmuslims.com – 1082 King St., Charleston, SC 29403 – (843-720-8614) – Prayers are usually Fridays at 1:30, but it sometimes varies. Please check their website for the correct time. Wear modest clothing.  Be prepared to remove shoes. Women must wear a headscarf and cover arms. Women must enter by the women’s door and sit at the back of the mosque.

Hinduism – www.stccofsc.org – Sanatan Temple and Cultural Center of SC – 1740 Jervey Ave., Charleston 29407 – West Ashley, 7 & 171 – This temple is actually an old church building that the Hindus purchased. They have many events during the week, usually from 5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m. (especially on Tuesdays). They also are open on some Saturday afternoons for cultural and religious events.  On Sunday mornings from 11:00 – 12:00, there is a time for meditation, which you do on your own. Casual clothing is fine (not shorts or jeans).  Although this temple does not always have a priest, if you sit quietly and watch the Hindu families enter, perform rituals, and meditate, you will still get a good understanding of Hinduism. Remove shoes before entering the temple.  There is a shoe rack in the room to your right, across from the door to the temple room. Introduce yourself because there are people there whose role it is to show visitors around and answer their questions.

Unitarian Universalist Church – historic church in downtown Charleston – There are Unitarian churches in many other locations, but this church is historic and has beautiful architecture.  Unitarian-Universalist churches are very supportive and welcoming of the LGBT community, and they also welcome a great diversity of worldviews, including atheism.

Tibetan Buddhism – www.charlestontibetansociety.com – 12 Parkwood Ave, Charleston 29403 (near the Citadel) – 843-937-4849 – The temple is in an ordinary house, so it does not look like a temple. Check the time on the website.  Go only on Sundays from 9:30 – 10:30 when the monks are there, and one of the monks gives an Introduction to Meditation: twenty minutes of meditation, followed by a question and answer period. Sometimes the monks are there at other times during the week; the important thing is to go only when one of the monks is there – not a student leader. You are allowed to take a notebook because many of the Buddhists take notes – but only during the question and answer period. Do not enter the meditation room if you are late.  That is considered to be very rude.  Be sure to arrive fifteen minutes early.  Also, while in the meditation room, be very quiet and respectful. Wear casual, modest clothing. Remove shoes before entering the meditation room. Summer students, check the website to verify that a monk will be there.  The monks may have left for the summer retreat. Do not go if one of the monks is not leading the meditation.

Eastern Orthodox Christianity – www.greekorthodoxchurch.orgGreek Orthodox Church, 30 Race St., Charleston, SC 29403 – 843-577-2063 – Check the time on the website. Usually services are Sundays at 10:00 a.m. Dress well, but you do not need to wear a suit. This is an extremely beautiful church with stained glass windows and many other examples of beautiful, material expression.

There is also a small Russian Orthodox Church in Summerville: Sts. Cyril and Methodius Orthodox Church.  – 122 W. Richardson Ave. 29483 – Sundays at 10:00 according to the website – Check the website to make sure that this is still the correct time. Dress well. Headscarves and dresses are required for women, and nice shirts and slacks for men. Note: This church is very difficult to find because it is not visible as you drive along the street.  It is off the street and down an alley. Be sure that you locate it before the Sunday that you attend so that you are not late.   

There are many other Eastern Orthodox churches in the greater Charleston area. The Eastern Orthodox churches will give you a good idea of how Christians worshipped centuries ago.

Historical Churches: There are many beautiful, historical churches in downtown Charleston: Catholic, Baptist, A.M.E., Episcopalian, etc.  If you like history, beautiful art, and architecture, you might want to attend one of them.

If you do not live in the Charleston area, you will have to find a place of worship by asking friends, co-workers, family members, or by searching the web.

Special Needs:  Some places of worship are wheelchair accessible; others are not. Some provide devices to enable better hearing; some do not. Usually the website of the place of worship will provide that information, or you could ask a friend that attends there.

Plagiarism:  You can check your own essay for plagiarism after you upload it to the D2L drop box.  If you plagiarize your essay, you will be given a zero and Academic Misconduct. If you are not sure what constitutes plagiarism, please read p. 2 of the syllabus. Also, please read How to Check for Plagiarism (under Essays). The red headings total about 26% of your words. You are allowed another 14% for quotes and words that are not your own. Thus, you total of plagiarized orhighlighted words should not be greater than 40%. 

These are the red headings to copy for the essay, Visit to an Unfamiliar Place of Worship.

 

Note: In order to copy and paste the red headings, you must first download the document.

 

Element One: Doctrinal and philosophical (This is the belief structure and intellectual framework.) This means that every religion has beliefs that they have thought through and organized.

 

Element Two: Social and Institutional – This refers to the community that practices the beliefs. Beliefs must be shared. How do parents, grandparents and the rest of the community pass down their beliefs to their children in order to ensure the survival of the religion?   

 

Element Three: Narrative and Mythic – These are the important stories of the religions. Myths are the stories that express the religious beliefs of a group.  The stories are told and retold, and are often reenacted.  Why is this an important story? What is the purpose of the story?

 

Element Four: Rituals – Definition on p. 31: “A ritual is a repeated, patterned religious act.”  A ritual is something that people do in order to express their beliefs. A ritual is not spontaneous. It has been passed down generation to generation.

 

Element five: Ethical and Legal – Religions have laws or taboos to guide the behavior of people. They also have sacrifices that must be made if you break a taboo. A taboo is any kind of behavior that you should not do.

 

Part One: Taboo – Give an example of a taboo that should not be broken.

 

Part Two: Sacrifice – Give an example of the penalty that you must pay for breaking the taboo/law.

 

(You do not need to copy the following: Since this is a religious service, the leader will probably not talk about the sacrifice. A sacrifice might mean having your membership canceled, going to Hell, being excommunicated, being punished by God, or becoming unhappy and out of harmony. If the leader does not mention any of these, just leave this part blank.)

 

Element Six: Material expression – Part One – People create physical objects to

express their beliefs. Examples are: statues, paintings, books, musical instruments, incense containers, clothing, masks, sacred buildings, etc.

 

Element Six: Material Expression – Part Two: There is also the “material” aspect that is not created by humans, but is found in nature, such as sacred places: near a sacred tree, beside a sacred waterfall, or on a sacred mountain. (Did the service include symbolic items that were not made by humans, such as water or flowers?)

 

Element Seven: Experiential and Emotional – Part One – Experience – When people have an experience of God/Sacred Reality, there is an emotion that they feel. Give an example of a religious experience.

 

Element Seven: Experiential and Emotional – Part Two – Emotion –  Some of the emotions that are felt during the experience of God/Sacred Reality are inner peace, joy, awe, ecstasy, and bliss. Give an example of an emotion that the person would feel when they are having the religious experience that you gave as an example for part one.

 

Reflection on Your Visit: 

 

Please be sure to answer the questions for the “reflection”.   They are found on the document with the main instructions.

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