Our first stop on the list was the most exotic for me, the Buddhist temple. The architecture was fascinating, designed in the '70's in a Japanese style. Upon entering the building the odor of incense was pungent. It was truly a unique experience because we were led in chants and meditation (a first for most of us) while learning and asking questions of the speaker. It was apparent that our guide was passionate because it seemed as if he could talk for hours about the Buddhist faith to a group of students pretty new to the topic.
Though I'm sure my understanding of Buddhism as a lifestyle is not complete, I definitely have some opinions on it. I cannot get over the fact that there is no God. In fact there are no structured or prescribed beliefs to accept. Honestly the meditation didn't work for me either: the bell was irritating and part of me feels like it's a very inefficient use of time. On a good note, I liked that Buddhism places no differences on men or women. In fact the type of Buddhism practiced at this temple preaches that anybody can become a Buddha. In all I found Buddhism to be a very personal way of achieving spirituality that takes much patience and openness.
Just a block away was a Catholic Parish that we stopped into. Though we didn’t watch a presentation or even talk to a member of the church, just walking inside the sanctuary was a religious experience for me. There seemed to be so much more space than one would guess from looking at the exterior. But every surface glowed with some special feature from the deep wooden pews, intricately carved alters, elegant stained glass windows, high arched ceilings to the pastel walls. My teacher pointed out the abounding religious symbols. Standing there gawking at the decoration made me feel very inspired and appreciative. Compared to my own experience as a member of the Presbyterian Church, it was odd to think about going to such a fanciful place to pray and worship. It seems somewhat unnecessary but I'm am not complaining because Cathedrals are a major source of man-made beauty in this world. The fact is that I could walk around that space and gawk for hours because it’s just not done like that anymore.
Our third adventure in learning took place at a Church of Christ, Scientist. Again the building itself was inspiring but in a more abstract way. It was an honor to even be invited inside because it is one of those buildings that everyone in the city has seen and wondered about. Having done a project on Christian Science I felt more prepared than my classmates and interested in how our speaker, a healing practitioner, would describe her own faith. Reading from both the bible and a textbook by their founder, Mary Baker Eddy, during a typical service surprised me because the church does not praise Mrs. Eddy at the same level at all. One fact I learned was that Christian Science Reading Rooms are for the public and that it is a studious religion requiring reading and prayer as common practice.
Though I love the idea of praying to Jesus for healing of a wound, I still see a disconnection in the refusal of medical treatment. Our speaker assured us that they respect doctors and medical professionals but I think it possible that God can work through doctors to heal. I cannot stress enough what a unique and thought provoking experience this field trip was.
Lastly was my first introduction to a Unity Temple. This congregation is right outside our backyard yet I had never even heard of it. The interior was most similar to the Church of Christ, Scientist, undecorated but more inviting and casual. Both of our hosts seemed very enthusiastic to be sharing with us, which made the visit all the more enjoyable. I think the part that separates this religion from others is that it is not really a religion just a common place for people to celebrate their spirituality. As a group that is traditionally accepting of people from all walks of life, followers, I assume, are very kind and diverse. I agree with most of the guidelines they accept but like Buddhism there are no rules set in stone. Again coming from my Christian faith, the idea of affirmative prayer intrigued me but did not seem like a complete mindset to have. If I had to choose one of these religions to learn more about it would be this one.The most exciting part is I have another field trip like this one next week. I hope that it will be as positive an experience as this was because I don’t think I will ever forget this. Even belonging to my own Church has not made me disapproving of these religions but I honestly hope that each congregation will thrive in the coming years.