Field Exercise


It will be good to consider a practical exercise to give you a more hands-on familiarity with some of the topics or religious communities under study. The suggestions here are “generic” and reflect teaching considerations that are primarily in Religious Studies.


In some courses, the Instructor will make a number of suggestions about possible “Extra Credit” type items, such as lectures on campus, special events set up by student organizations or departments, performances or other activities. Sometimes there will be an actual trip organized by the Instructor. Think of this requirement as making sure you do at least one exercise that is more than simply reading books and articles or websites or showing up in class. Think of it as a required Extra Credit Project, in which you get to determine exactly what you do and when you do it—but the Extra Credit lecture, visit, project or experience is required.


Here are some examples of what might be good Field Experience projects. Please do one or more of the following or something similar, and write up a report. The report need not be analytical, just reporting about the experience and what you found. It might even get you started on a paper topic.


Field Trip to Houses of Worship or to Religious Leaders: A Field Experience might begin by going to a house of worship, library, institute, student organization, or school associated with Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Islam, Bahai or a closely-related religion. (obviously, the house of worship should be related to the topic of the course!) Ideally this should be one that you are not familiar with although in some cases students have gone to their own house of worship with inquiries they have not made before. I can make connections for you if you wish, but you can also find most of this information via the Web or the phonebook. In some cases, I may be able to get you invited homes or arrange for or give a tour.


Find a Book of Prayer, Hymnal, Scripture or other books in the worship place, and see if you can correlate what we read about (or will read about) and what you actually see in these books. Look at their library—what kinds of values are represented in their library collection? What kinds of things do the books provide? How do they relate to the liturgy or to ideas about what is sacred?


Inscriptions and Postings: Are there postings around the building which include a text of creedal significance? Ask about any religious texts (words from scripture or prayers, etc.) displayed in inscriptions or posters, or any other inscriptions.


News and Credos: Find a Creed or Credo from a church, or some statement of doctrine from the Jewish Prayer Book or from Islam. Are their creedal texts handed out or posted? Many houses of worship also hand out texts about their worship service or community news. What types of things are considered appropriate for newsletters?


Religious Schools: A lot can be learned by visiting and analyzing a religious school. What types of values are promoted by the choice of essays, artwork and pictures (including especially student work) or other postings in the classrooms or hallways?


Artwork and iconography: what can you tell by looking at the iconography and artwork in the sanctuary?  Look at how pictures and postings in the House of Worship reflect, for example, the Holy Land or the Middle East iconographically. For our purposes, this can include pictures, maps, depictions of Jesus in what is meant to be a Middle Eastern locale (Bethlehem, Nazareth, Egypt, Jerusalem, etc.); Modern Iraq, Mecca, Medina, Najaf, etc.  And it can include Sunday School postings!  Of course, depictions of Jesus can come in to this as well: does Jesus look particularly like a 1st century Middle Easterner (probably short, dark hair, dark eyes, darker complexion than is typical for northern Europeans).


Personal attendance at various rituals: it might be more enlightening to attend a special ritual rather than a regular worship service. Viewing a Zoroastrian initiation ritual, Qur’an recitation, Bar Mitzvah, etc.  will give invaluable perspective. It might be possible to attend the ceremonial part of a religious wedding, circumcision, confirmation or other ceremony.


Meet with a spiritual leader or leaders. Call them up first of course. Set up a list of questions based on our readings or on questions posed by your or your fellow students. You could also ask your own spiritual leader about some of the points raised in our course.


Attend a lecture or presentation relevant to the course or located at a house of worship—or a lecture given on Campus or in the community. Consider going to a class at the house of worship or continuing education.


Attend a meeting of a student organization associated with Judaism, Christianity or Islam, such as Hillel, Newman House, another campus ministry, etc.


Museum: Pay a visit to Christian, Islamic or Judaica art collections (There are phenomenal collections in Denver Art Museum for Christian and Islamic art).


Music: I have some ideas about Music for those who are interested in a musical excursion. This could lead to a paper topic as well, but even a “field trip” type report might be worth while. A concert with a Mass, hearing Jewish Singing or Islamic chanting. Etc.


Restaurant or Food: If relevant to the course, trying a restaurant which is specific to the religious tradition or region of the world under study might be a good idea. Or, attempting to make a traditional meal or even observing dietary considerations (for Judaism or Islam: kosher, hallal, fasting, Id al-Adha, etc.).


Virtual Tour: A field trip to, for example, Virtual Jerusalem or the Pilgrimage is readily doable on the internet, as are tours of certain other shrines and holy places. Not as exciting as a real trip though. Some of you may be able to include a visit to a historic or religious site, especially if you travel on term break.


You may have your own creative Field Experience idea. Please let me know.