Write a paper on your observations of a visit to a Christian Church service, due on WEDNESDAY, APRIL 30TH.
If you were not raised Catholic, you may attend one of the Masses offered at the SMC Chapel, or the services of any denomination other than your own. If you were raised Catholic, you should choose a Protestant, Eastern Orthodox, or other type of Christian service. The service that you attend may be here in the Burlington area, in your hometown, or in some other place you might visit. It needs to be a regularly scheduled worship service, not a wedding or a funeral. Be sure to write down the exact name and location of the church you attend, along with the date and time of the service, as well as the name of the person who presided at the liturgy or church service. Attending with a friend who is a member of that particular church is always a good option.
Any worship service is eligible as long as the people in the congregation see themselves as Christian. This would exclude a Jewish synagogue, a Muslim mosque, or a Unitarian Universalist church.
First, look up some information about the denomination on the Denomination’s Official Web Site. Look especially for information about fundamental beliefs and practices, especially worship practices. You might want to compare what you find on the web site with what you experience in the worship service.
Before you attend the church service, look at these questions below to help in your analysis:
Service- What does the community call the service (note: only Roman Catholics use the term “Mass”) Do the leaders and the community follow a set order of service, perhaps from a book, or does it seem to be spontaneous?
Worship space- What are the main focal points of the church (altar, pulpit, baptismal font)? What types of decorations are on the wall? What purpose does the artwork serve, if any?
Leaders- Who leads worship? What are they called (what title is given to the leader or leaders)? Are they dressed in any special way? What other people are involved in the service? Does anyone read the Bible? Does anyone preach?
Prayers- Are prayers set (memorized or from the printed page) or extemporaneous (impromptu, without notes)? Does the whole community or do only certain individuals pray? Does everyone know the prayers and responses? Are prayer books or missalettes used? Is the Bible involved?
Music- What is the nature of the music? What instruments are used, if any? Who sings or performs (everyone, professionals, or both)?
Ritual Gestures- Do people participate in any particular ritual gestures (kneeling, genuflecting, standing, upraised arms, crossing themselves)? When and why do they do them?
You can include anything else that strikes you as interesting or is different from what you expected. Is there anything missing that you might have expected from your own prior experience?
Be sure to dress appropriately!! Students might dress very casually at the Masses on campus, but this will not be the case at many churches. Some churches limit the reception of the Eucharist (Lord’s Supper, Holy Communion) only to baptized members of that particular community. If communion is open to all present, that will usually be indicated by the minister.
Please be respectful observers- taking notes during the service could be considered rude. You will want to sit down immediately afterward to make a list of your impressions so that you can compose your paper later.
There are two Protestant churches within walking distance of campus: Winooski United Methodist Church, 24 W. Allen St., Winooski (the big green church just past the post office). Its services are at 9:30 am every Sunday. The second is Faith Baptist Church, 28 Platt St., Winooski, worship service at 10:30 am every Sunday. Both are quite small congregations.
Other churches are listed in the Yellow Pages, and a list of some churches can be found through the Campus Ministry’s Inter Faith directory at: Interfaith Directory
Although there is no bus service on Sunday, you might want to get a ride or split a cab ride to Church Street, where there are a dozen churches within walking distance.
The official web sites of several denominations are listed below:
Assembly of God
UCC- Congregational (United Church of Christ)
Evangelical Lutheran Church
Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
Holiness (Church of the Nazarene)
Pentecostal Church of God
Roman Catholic Church (Note: This is the official site for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, which does contain information on beliefs and practices. The actual official site is the web site for The Holy See or Vatican.