You are required to make a personal visit to a religion other than your own – a religion you are entirely unfamiliar with in your personal experience. This is to force you to move beyond your current “comfort zone” and to realize, through direct interaction, that people in other religions are really not that different from you and that there need be nothing to fear about expanding one’s horizons. Direct experience is the best way to learn anything. It brings theory alive and makes it real.
You are expected to see the place, observe religious activity, and dialogue with followers of the religion. Then you are to write up or otherwise share a report on your experience, not only describing it but also demonstrating how the experience has impacted on you in a more personal way.
In your report, be sure to discuss the process of this experience, from the planning stages through reflections on personal transformation:
1. In an opening paragraph, discuss your planning, anticipation, and expectations for this experience:
Why did you pick this religion and this particular place to visit?
What kind of preliminary research did you do to familiarize yourself with where you were planning to go? (e.g. visit their Website or otherwise learn a little about the religion)
What did you do to try to make this the best experience it could be (e.g. think about what questions you might ask, call ahead to find out the best time to come)?
How did you feel in anticipation of the experience? What expectations, if any, did you have: what did you expect to see, hear and do during this experience, based on your limited awareness of the religion in question?
2. Discussing the experience itself (this will, likely, be the longest part of your report – perhaps 50%).
Give a somewhat detailed description of the physical surroundings, the people and activities you observe (the building, inside and out; the people there – what they were like, what they did; the activities and words used; sights, sounds, scents and other sensory impressions).
Discuss the conversations you have with the people there:
who did you talk with?
what did you talk about?
3. Offer your thoughtful analytical and interpretive reflections on the experience as a whole as well as on specific aspects of what you see and hear, highlights of the conversations you have with the people there (you are encouraged to make observations that compare and contrast these first hand experiences to each other as well as to any other religions with which you may be familiar)
4. In conclusion, reflect back on the experience, after the fact, and discuss how you have been transformed, both intellectually and emotionally, by the experience. Offer your personal thoughts and feelings regarding the experience as a whole as well as specific aspects of what you encounter:
Were your expectations met or exceeded? If not, why not? What could you have done differently to make this a more productive experience?
What did you discover about, what impressions did you get of this religion and the people who follow it?
How has this encounter changed your understanding and/or appreciation of the religion in question?
What misperceptions or assumptions did you have about this religion and how did this experience help to clarify these for you?
What remaining or new questions do you have about this religion and how do you think you can find the answers?
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