World Religion Term Paper

You will be required to produce a term paper on the topic of religious landmarks in St. Louis. The paper comprises 30% of your grade.

Due date: first class meeting in December.

You will select a church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or house sanctuary for description and analysis. Obviously, this will include an interview, review of texts, and check with library resources. The paper must be five pages or longer. It is to be finalized in the best scholarly tradition (i.e. typed, documented, bibliography, foot noted, double spaced, neat). Please make use of the free help provided by the Writing Lab located in the Communications Building. Yes, you can document the "landmark" where you worship, but that will be very easy and I will expect your report to be very detailed. Be brave - research a landmark that you have never visited.

Each student in this class will produce a term paper of at least five pages length (typewritten). The paper will focus on a religious "landmark" of St. Louis. What does a landmark mean? It can be a church, synagogue, mosque or temple.

The easiest approach will be to focus on a place of worship that you have attended and feel comfortable describing. Thus, if you attend the Second Baptist Church of Florissant, then make it your focus. If no place comes to mind OR if you are adventurous, then see my NOTE TO THE BRAVE.

Term Paper Directions

Playing Fair
Assure the people who talk with you that they will receive a copy of your paper. If they ask you not to write something, then obey their wishes. Write in a sympathetic voice. You are describing - not judging. I will not return your report, so whatever pictures or other items will forever be mine.

If you are given copies of church literature, then that should be listed in the footnotes or endnotes. This can be denomination materials, library materials, etc. Yes, if you are studying a Baptist congregation, then you should do a little research on Baptist beliefs in our college's reference library. Yes, you can check for such information on the World Wide Web.

Note to the Brave

So you are brave? Then do not describe the a congregation that is your home. Select something different! Like what? Check the yellow pages under CHURCHES. I will be impressed if you try the Christian Science, Latter Day Saints, Baha'i, Buddhist Temple, Hindu Temple, any Eastern Orthodox church, the Ethical Society, Quakers, the Islamic mosques, Korean churches, Mennonite church, or any of the Jewish temples. It is essential that you telephone and ask permission to visit since certain ceremonies may not be open to non-members. If they allow you to visit, then quietly take notes and be very, very respectful.

MUST issues in your term paper

These are adapted from an article by Gordon Bronitksy published in Anthro News (by the Smithsonian) in 1991. He described the traits that he studies among the Baptist churches in West Texas:

1. Identification Information: name of group, denomination, status with regard to a larger denomination, location, number of weekly services, paid staff, volunteers.

2. Material Culture Variables: predominant male and female dress, printed program, musical instruments, choir robes, choir seating, collection posting, building exterior and interior, windows, styles of seating, speaking platform, sound system, flowers, flag, other decorations, architectural layout, crosses or other religious symbols.

3. Ethnic/Class Variables: Socio-Economic Status, major ethnic groups present, ethnicity of minister, language used in church, language used by congregates.

4. Behavioral Variables: age/gender of most people at the service, style of service, use of "amens", handclapping, interjections, etc. Is there a sermon? Is it spontaneous or written? Is there a collection? Is there childcare?

5. Ministerial Variables: full-time or part-time, age, education, call to preach, age at call, relatives in ministry, dress, demeanor and voice, view of own role within congregation.

6. Ritual Variables: what is the major religious "holy day" observed by this congregation during the year? What occurs during that ritual? What other religious "holy days" do they observe? Are there special decoration for these rituals? Do people wear special clothing for these rituals?

7. Historical/Architectural Variables: The paper should start with a discussion of the historical and social context of the landmark. When was it built? What is the neighborhood like? Did it move from another location? When was the current building constructed? What are dates for earlier buildings? Has the congregation changed over time? Next, you should include a list of the ministers, rabbis, mullahs, teachers, etc. and their approximate date of service. Are there stories (good and bad) about these leaders? You report MUST contain some basic description about the exterior and interior of the building. Paint me a picture with words, then use a camera to take a couple of pictures of the interior and exterior; include the pictures in your report - if possible. Be sure and ask permission before taking photographs. I would recommend close-up photographs and descriptions of any "sacred art" or "sacred objects" kept in the place of worship. Where did these come from? Who gave them?

8. Beliefs: What do the members believe? What issues unit them? What issues divide them? How do they relate to larger groups such as denominations? Ask the tough questions such as the meaning of God, role of women in worship, attitude towards abortion, role of religion in social change, concept of death, etc.

Final Note: I have placed a book on reserve in the library for use in the class. It is entitled House of God: Historic Church and Places of Worship in St. Louis. Check this book to see if it has a reference to the group you are studying.

Balance each hour given in this world with an hour given to the next.
Arabic Proverb