The study of other religions helps to understand better one’s own faith. Understanding the values of people of different faiths allows avoiding misunderstandings and conflicts. That is why religious field trips to another community help to expand the worldview of the observers and understand better their fellow citizens.
Being a Seventh-Day Adventist, I went to a Pentecostal church. We were the only family who were not of Indian decent. In the church, men sat on the left while women and children sat on the right. This was very new to my husband because in our faith, families are allowed to sit together. In contrast to the formidable Gothic spires of the Catholic cathedrals, the church has a clear resemblance to a country house. In fact, it seems that you actually visit the house of someone’s grandparents. The light wood walls and the building’s size create this illusion. Lack of religious symbols on the facade makes one think that it is not a religious building but a local book club. Such exterior perfectly matches the idea of the Methodist Church. The epithet “Methodist” was used initially as an insult to the members of the “Holy Club,” which was founded by the brothers John and Charles Wesley at Oxford University. Methodists have a schedule for each day specifying time for praying, visiting the sick and prisoners; teaching at the schools for the poor, and implementing the rules of the Church. Thus, the idea that everything has to be functional, simple, and without fanciful decorations is represented in the architecture.
Furthermore, the whole program was more focused on preaching. Despite the fact that the building appeared light and calm, the service itself had a significant impact on the psyche with excessive persuasion. This can be explained by the fact that the practice of the Methodists is close to the Anglican, though it is characterized by less formalization, greater simplicity, focus on preaching, minimization of the ritual, and active participation of the laity. Thus, during the preaching, there was a feeling that it was a club of close friends speaking the same but also different language. They seem to have developed a system of communication, which makes everyone involved. The feeling reached its apogee when a collection of hymns, many of which were composed by Charles Wesley, was used. Despite the theme of the preaching, most of the service was just philosophizing on the topic of why the Bible mentions hatred, not only love. It was boring since such philosophical arguments require a dialogue, not a monologue. However, for parishioners that were accustomed to this kind of preaching, this monologue was interesting. Nevertheless, the most fascinating fact about the service was the absence of pompous rituals.
After the service, I tried to talk to the congregation. However, our conversations ended quickly with the attempts to invite me to their parish, polite talks about what was an interesting about sermon and how the weather was especially hot that day. In spite of everything, the experience of such communication is already a successful event. It was enlightening to see how the service was conducted in another faith and how it affected the parishioners. In many ways, the people’s faith was based on the figure of the preacher in the church. He was similar to a manager in the company edifying, preaching, and organizing the process by presenting further activities for the community. However, there was a negative side to the service as well: I had a feeling that this was not a real sermon but a group therapy session.
To conclude, attending Zion Pentecostal Church was an invaluable experience that presented useful information about the differences and similarities between this religion and my own faith. This field trip was a great opportunity to learn about another religion from the insider’s perspective and to acquaint oneself with the unique features of the Methodist rituals. Thus, using the experience, it is possible to conduct an individual research on different religions expanding one’s worldview.