Field Inventory Assignment
200 points: 1500–2000+ words
A hard copy due in class on Wednesday, 04/17/19
A digital copy is due through ACE on the same day.
For this assignment you will make multiple visits to a single congregation that
practices some version of Christianity. Your task will be to understand nature of the
congregation’s community life, how it shapes the lives of its members, and the role the
church plays in a larger social context. This will require library and Internet research:
however, your main source of information about these people will be your own
1. You will observe at least one of their main weekly worship services.
2. You will visit and observe at least one other church activity.
3. You will interview a member of the clergy or a lay member who has the
knowledge to answer your questions.
Before you make the visit itself, you must research the congregation and its
denomination and/or denominational family. Also make sure you understand the Seven
Dimensions of Religion. Before you go anywhere near this group you should have a
written list of the questions you will need to answer.
Choosing a congregation:
Choose a congregation that practices a style of Christianity1 that is unfamiliar to you. Do
not pick a church that is part of the same denomination or denominational family as any
of those in which you were raised or have ever been affiliated. If you grew up in a
church that uses a lot of formal rituals and decoration you should do your report on one
that is less formal. Examples of very formal and ritualistic groups would be the Roman
Catholics, the Episcopalians, the Eastern Orthodox and the Lutherans. Christians who
de-emphasize ritual formality include, Baptists, Disciples of Christ, Non-Denominational
Christians, and Pentecostals.
Preparing for the visit:
1. Begin your research before you visit by using the library and Internet resources.
Most congregations now have one or more websites. You need to find them, and you
also need to find the websites of the specific denominations and/or associations to
which the congregation belongs. In addition to finding relevant websites, go to the
library to find books and other materials that deal with the denomination or religious
movement of which the church is a part. Pay particular attention to how and why this
type of Christianity began, and how it has developed in recent years. Identify its most
distinctive features so you can look for evidence of these when you go there.
For the purposes of this class, we will define any group as Christian that makes Jesus its most important
center of sacred power and/or its primary symbol of life ultimate meaning.
2. Many students will choose a church of a friend who can act as an informant, and I
encourage students to play this role for each other. Informants can tell you about the
customs and their meanings, and they can also tell you in advance about the group’s
expectations of visitors, like what to wear, and when to stand and sit during the
service. If at all possible, you should know these things before you go in.
3. If you visit a church to which no one you know belongs, you should probably phone
ahead to make sure that the church welcomes visitors, and find what week would be
a good time to attend. You should know in advance what is appropriate to wear.
Some congregations have rules about this, and others have unwritten expectations.
The very casual clothing students usually wear to class, such as jeans, t-shirts, and
sweats, is seldom appropriate for church services. Some congregations might also
have a problem with sleeveless shirts, very short skirts, etc., so try to find out in
advance. If in doubt it is usually best to dress conservatively, with men in coats and
ties, and women in dresses or skirts. Also make sure if it is appropriate to take notes
during services, and when you might take pictures. If possible try to make an
appointment to talk to a member of their clergy or a lay member who knows the
history and practices of the church well enough to answer your questions.
4. Arrive at the church at least fifteen minutes ahead of time. Familiarize yourself with
the church, parking lot, and the social environment, and review your notes about what
to look for.
5. Before you sit down, look for a church bulletin and other printed matter that will help
you understand the church and become familiar with the worship that is about to
commence. Find any books that you will need to participate in the service, such as
hymnals, prayer books, or Bibles.
6. Many congregations display a variety of free pamphlets and other printed material
that attempt to answer basic questions about who they are, what they do, and what is
most important to them. These can be a valuable source for you.
7. Take lots of notes on what you see, hear, or otherwise experience. If possible, do this
as you make your observations. Some congregations frown on taking notes during
services, so find out ahead of time if this is allowed. In any case, you will need to
write down or dictate as much as you can remember immediately after the service. I
recommend carrying a tape recorder in your car and begin dictating as soon as you
get back to it. Also, after the service make note of any questions you have for the
pastor or congregants at the church. Focus on observations that provoked questions
about what was happening. If there is a social hour after the service you can use it to
find people in the congregation who can answer your questions. Before you leave the
church try to get the phone number of someone to whom you can ask questions that
occur to you after you leave the service.
8. Most churches take up collections during their services. So come prepared with a few
dollars to throw into the basket as it goes around.
The Field Inventory should be in the form of a coherent and cohesive essay, not the
question and answer format of the field visit reports. Make sure it conforms to the
following format guidelines:
a. The paper should be typed on a word processing program in a 12 pt font like
Times New Roman, and it should be double-spaced with 1.25” to 1.5” left
and right margins.
b. Use the subheadings suggested in these instructions. Subheadings should be
bold-faced. Make sure that everything you write under a sub-heading is
relevant to the topic of that subheading.
c. Number the pages and staple them together in the top left-hand corner.
d. Include a bibliography of all sources used to complete this assignment,
including the people with whom you spoke.
e. Use the citation and bibliography guidelines of one of the Modern Language
a. Write in complete sentences within well–organized paragraphs.
b. Each paragraph should have a clear topic sentence, and all other sentences in
the paragraph should relate directly to that topic sentence.
c. Note that a subheading is not the same as a paragraph, and that many
subheadings will have multiple paragraphs under them.
d. Make very clear the difference between your voice, as the researcher and
writer, and those of your sources. This includes both written sources and
people to whom you spoke.
e. Be particularly careful not to allow the pious insider language of the people
you study to become part of your own voice. It is your job to translate and
explain such language to outsiders.
f. The word feel has a particular meaning in this paper—and this class. It
indicates a strong emotion or physical sensation. Do not use it to indicate a
particular belief or opinion. That will tend to confuse how you discuss the
dimensions of the religion you are observing.
Your report should include a discussion of how this congregation expresses its beliefs
about life’s ultimate meaning and purpose. Use the Seven Dimensions of Religion model
to classify your examples. The paper should also include information necessary to put
this in a social and historical context. Use the following subheadings to organize the
paper, and answer as many of the questions below as you can.
Introduction: What is the exact name of this church, and why did you select it?
What makes it an appropriate subject for this assignment? What was the date and
time of your visit? Was this the main weekly worship service, or was it aimed at
a particular segment of the congregation, such as youth, singles, women, etc? Did
you go alone or with a friend? Was there anyone from the congregation that
provided you with information? If so, who, and what kind of information did they
Location and Affiliation: Where is this church located and what kind of
neighborhood surrounds it? What is its exact address? How old is the
congregation, and what are its ties to the local community? Of what larger
movement, tradition, and denominational family is this church a part? Name and
describe any larger formal organization, such as a denomination or association,
with which this church is affiliated.
Social Context: In so far as you can determine it, what is the range of socioeconomic classes represented in this congregation? Look for clues to their
income and education levels by observing their clothing, automobiles, and general
appearance, as well as their use of language, professions, etc. What is the age
range and gender distribution of the people present? What is their racial and
Material Dimension: How do these people designate sacred space, and how are
their building and grounds arranged to facilitate their sense of the divine. Keep in
mind that sacred spaces might be both outside and inside. What areas are more
holy than others? Why do you think so? What areas do they use to make the
transition between sacred and secular? What activities go on in the different
spaces you observed? Who sits where in the worship space? Where does the
worship leader or clergy person clergy person stand or sit? What roles did
religious art objects, and furnishings play? About how many people would the
room seat, and how many were present?
Social/Institutional: How do these people organize themselves? Who has
authority in this congregation? How are they chosen? Who controls the money?
Who owns the property? How is this congregation affiliated with other churches
or institutions? Is it part of a larger denomination or association of
congregations? How is this denomination structured? What kind of authority
does the denomination have over the congregation and/or its clergy? How is the
organization of this congregation different from that any other? What kind of
clergy do they have? What are the jobs for which they hire clergy? How is the
clergy chosen and trained? How are they ordained? Who hires and fires the
clergy? What is the nature and extent of their authority over the laity? Besides the
clergy, who else does this congregation hire people. What important jobs does
this congregation fill with volunteers? Besides a weekly worship service, what
other sort of gatherings and activities does this congregation have for its
Ritual/Practical: Describe the order in which the service unfolded. How was the
worship service ordered? How long did it last, and what was the approximate
length of each of its parts? Was it dedicated to a particular theme or explicitly
tied to a seasonal or annual liturgical plan? What sacraments or “ordinances”
were performed during the worship service? For what or whom did the
congregation pray? How were prayers conducted and by whom? Of what other
practices, done at other times, did you find evidence while visiting? What kind of
music was used? Was there a choir? How about musical instruments? Note any
hymns, prayers, silences, or other prominent features of the service and
approximately how long each lasted. What in the service reflected a specifically
religious organization of time. Look particularly at the bulletin or other printed
matter for references to the liturgical calendar. Were there biblical readings from
either the Hebrew Bible or New Testament that are read as part of a cycle of
readings corresponding to the liturgical year? What parts of the Bible were read?
Was there any use of a language other than English? If there was a sermon, what
was its theme and style and how long did it last? Did it seem carefully prepared
in advance and read to the audience, or was it more spontaneously composed?
What kind of rules govern the de3corum of the church and its members while
involved the rituals and activities going on inside the church? Is there a dress
code? Do members address each other in formal ways they would not use in
Experiential/Emotional: What specific emotions did people present display or
discuss? How did people hold and move their bodies during the service? To
what extent did people express themselves verbally? How did people discuss their
own experience with the divine, and how does the group explain and attach value
to these experiences?
Narrative/Mythic: What biblical or other religious stories were told during the
service, and to what extent were connections made to ideas of incarnation and/or
resurrection? Were there stories told about this congregation and/or its members?
How ere these stories linked to the central narratives of Christianity? Was there
artwork or other elements that told religious stories? Does this church have
classes in which the essential narratives of Christianity are discussed or otherwise
Legal/Ethical: What rules and guidelines does this congregation have regarding
the way people treat each other? Where do these rules come from, and how are
they presented? What major ethical principles did you see or hear discussed?
Too what extent does this church take positions on major social and political
issues?. Note that legal and ethical behavior is a large part of all Christianity these
on display, you need to look harder.
Doctrinal/Philosophical: What doctrines and or beliefs do these people
especially emphasize? What doctrines are distinct to this kind of Christianity?
What creeds or other statements of belief do they use? How were their doctrines
discussed or conveyed? How do they convey their doctrines to their members or
Storyline: Every religious group has a storyline that is an essential component of
their identity. It gives meaning to their work together and explains what their
purpose is. Note that each different level of organization creates a community
with at least one storyline. Your task is to discover the storyline of the particular
congregation you observe. How the people would answer the following questions
about the life and history of their particular congregation? For every group of
people there is at least one narrative line that answers the following questions:
1. Where do they believe they come from? What are their needs,
strengths, and vulnerabilities at the point the story begins?
2. Where do they want to go? What are they, as a group, trying to
achieve? What is their main purpose?
3. What obstacles must they overcome? What stands between them and
their goal? What makes their purpose difficult?
4. How do they plan to overcome them? They will have some kind of
discipline or plan to guide them.
5. What help do they hope to get? What help, beyond their own
resources, does this group believe they will need to achieve their goal?
Note that the answers you give to each of these questions should relate to each
other and form a consistent storyline. See the article entitled “Making Meaning:
Five Questions that Create Stories.”
Distinctive Features and Comparisons: How did this congregation express the
key ideals and values of Christianity, particularly incarnation and resurrection?
How did it understand salvation? What practices did you see that were particular
to this tradition? How did the worship of this congregation compare with what
you learned about the other churches that we visited?
Subjective reactions: What was the most surprising thing about this place or
group? Why do you think it surprised you? What emotions did you experience
during your visit? What provoked these emotions? What about this place did you
like most? What did you like least? Why?
Conclusion: How did this project affect your understanding of Christianity and
the society of which you are a part?
Citations Bibliography: You must cite all sources of information you have used.
This includes interviews, church pamphlets and websites, as well as books,
videos, and films. If you have doubts about whether or not to cite something, go
ahead and cite it. Use either in-text parenthetical citations or footnotes. Attach a
bibliography of all the sources, including internet sources, you used in completing
this report. Use the format guidelines of the Modern Language Association
(MLA). These can be found in the writing manuals you used in UIndy’s
introductory writing classes. Note that as you make reference to these sources in
the body of the paper they should be properly cited in footnotes or parenthetical
citations. See the appropriate style guides for detailed instructions. I will not
accept any paper that does not contain both citations and a bibliography.
Writing Help: I will be happy to talk to all students about whatever problems
they are having with this paper, especially in the early stages. I strongly urge
everyone to go to the Writing Lab in the library for help before they turn in their
Turning in the Paper: You will need to turn in the Field Inventory in both hardcopy
and digital form. Hardcopies are due in class on the dates stated at the top of the first
page. Digital copies are due via Ace the same day as the hardcopies. The best formats
for these files are recent versions of Word (.docx) and Rich Text Format (.rtf). Do give
me digital copies that use the Google Docs format.
The Name of the Digital File: The filename should be your last name
followed by the proper name of the church. After the name of the church put
the course number (100) and the semester number (152). The name of the church
can be given a shortened form and use abbreviations. This means that if your
name is Smith, and the church you visited is St. John the Divine Roman Catholic
Church, and you are in section #01, the subject heading will be as follows: Smith
fi St John RCC 100 152.
Email back-up: If technical problems make it impossible to submit files through
ACE’s Assignments feature, you can use email, as follows:
Send the email to me at email@example.com.
The subject heading of the email should be the same as the filename
Attach the file (with the name in the format stated above).
Copy the entire paper and paste it into the text of the email message. This
will act as a back-up incase your attachment gets corrupted.
Flash Drive Submissions: If you are unable to use either ACE or email to submit
your digital copy, you can save your paper to a flash drive and make an
appointment to come in and download it directly to my office computer.
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