Religion and Theology
Each student will visit a
church congregation that represents a church tradition outside of his or her
own realm of experience. Catholics will be encouraged to visit a Baptist,
Orthodox, Presbyterian, or Charismatic Church, etc. Likewise, those who
align with a religious tradition outside of Christianity should feel free to
stay within their own tradition, but visit a congregation of a different
perspective. For example, those who practice Reform Judaism might want to visit
an Orthodox Jewish congregation. Students with no background in a church tradition are free to
visit any congregation of their choice.
After attending the church,
each student will compose an 800-1000 word report that includes
an overview of the church’s background and theological
a description of the service, and
a reflection on the experience.
Selecting a Church
If you are wondering about the sorts of
congregations you might visit, you
might consult the Yellow Pages, which list more than a thousand congregations
in the greater Saint Louis area. An online church
directory for the Saint Louis area can be found at http://www.stlouischurches.org/.
You must choose a church other than Saint Francis Xavier College Church on the
Saint Louis University campus.
Part I: Researching the Church’s
Before visiting the church you
have selected, spend some time researching its history. To what denomination or
group does the church belong? When was it founded? Why was it founded? Has the
changed its denominational affinity?
How old is the church? How old is the church’s denomination or affiliation?
What is theologically distinctive or important to the church’s denomination or
Be sure to consult the church’s website for
such details. If possible, ask a church leader or member about the church
during your visit. Additional details about particular denominations can be
found in Handbook
of Denominations in the United States (13th edition) by Craig D. Atwood, Frank
S. Mead, Samuel S. Hill.
Part II: Visiting the Church and Describing the
Be polite, be respectful, and be on time! Make
sure your cell phone is in silent mode and do not text. Remember, you are
visiting the place where people come to worship. During your visit, ask
yourself the following
What was distinctive about the building and
its artwork? The service of worship? The words or music
used in worship? The homily or sermon?
What did you notice about the way that people interacted
with one another before, during, and after the service? What sort of relationship
did you see between the clergy and the laypersons? How, in general, did
this group interact with outsiders?
or political attitudes, if any, did you detect? What did you learn about
the social and political engagement of this congregation? Is it involved in
the larger community? If so, how?
What roles do men, women, and children
play in the congregation? Is there a clear distinction between older and
What ethical practices or cultural
customs did you observe? Do food and eating play a role in
the congregation? What about music, art, and other forms of artistic
Did you hear languages other than English
being spoken? If so, what role does the use of these languages play in
the congregation? Did you see a second- or third-generation effect,
whereby the children and grandchildren of immigrants show a changing
attitude toward their national or ethnic group?
Part III: Reflection
After attending the service, reflect on the
experience, making an explicit connection between your experience and the
observed service. Some questions to
consider include the following:
How did this church experience compare with your
previous church experiences
Was the experience what you expected?
How was the service different from your previous
experiences? How was it the same?
What surprised you?
If you haven’t had any experience in a
faith-based setting such as this, are there other ways you can connect to the
experience in terms of the ritual or community or diverse perspectives?
APA Format, 926 words