In the United States, religion is an important aspect of daily life. “In God We Trust” is stamped on our money, and presidential candidates compete to see who believes in God the most. If you are from a white middle class neighborhood like I am, religion seems to be your identity; it decides if you are a good, moral person or not. In the Cristian religions there is a hierarchy of religions based on how strict their interpretation of the bible is.
On one end you have Southern Baptists that believe that every word written in the bible is true, and on the other hand you have Methodists, Lutherans, and Presbyterians who believe that he bible should be used in a way that teaches people lessons on morality and kindness towards others. For my observational study I chose to attend two churches; St. Colette Catholic Church and Newburg United Methodist Church both in Livonia. When I walked into the entrance of the St. Colette Church, the narthex had warm beige walls and tile floors.
The narthex seemed to have been redone recently; it was freshly painted and had more modern furnishings than expected from the looks of the architecture of the building. There were booths set up that showed a variety of service projects and non-profit rganizations that wanted monetary donations. From what I could gather, it seemed like people were more reluctant to donate their time than their money because there were donation jars at each stand that looked to be relatively full compared to the bare volunteer sign-up sheets.
Across from the booths there were four large, wooden doors that lead into a large room with high ceilings and benches. It was about ten minutes before the eleven o’clock mass when I entered the large room and it was about half way full of people. I would guess that there were approximately two hundred people in the room. I thought that this was probably where the service is held because there were a lot more people in here than in the narthex. The room was very spacious and had light wooden ceilings and a turquoise color on the walls.
Staring at people from against the far wall was a huge statue of a man on a cross. There was not a lot of diversity in this church; almost all of the people were white and there were only a couple of families with small children in them. Some of the people were kneeling when I walked in and some were quietly chatting with their neighbors. I believe that the people were praying when they were kneeling ecause they seemed to only do it for a minute or two before they sat back in their pew.
More evidence that they were praying is that they had their hands together, palms touching each other, which is a common symbol of prayer. A piano started playing and everyone stopped talking so took my seat on the hard wooden pew. We were instructed to sign a song out of a hymn booklet that was locked on the seatback in front of us. As we sang the song four people came down the middle isle of the church and took their seats at the front of the church. There were two older men and two younger children; one boy and one girl.
The oldest man sat at the chair that was the most decorated while the other three sat at less intricate chairs. Once the song ended the oldest man (I’m assuming he was the priest or someone that was high up in the church) started leading us in our prayers. As I listened to the mass there was a lot of call and response. The priest would say something and the congregation would automatically say something back to him in perfect unison. All of the responses seemed to be memorized and said without thought. A lot of people looked bored and their expressions never changed when prompted to answer back to the priest.
About half way through the mass everyone sat down and the priest came down from his chair and started preaching to his congregation. Since I went on Easter Sunday, his sermon had to do with how Jesus was resurrected from the dead so that all of us on Earth could be absolved of our sins. He did not really explain how Jesus rising from the dead took all of our sins away, but rather just said it as fact and moved on. I got the feeling that whatever the priest says must be true, and that everyone just accepts it because it is the word of God.
The priest then went on the say that being in good standing with God means that you ave to go to church more than just on Christmas and Easter. After his sermon was done he went back up to his chair and sat down. A couple of seconds later he stood up and the entire church followed his lead and stood up as well. Again we went into a call and response between the priest and members of the church. This lasted for about ten more minutes. After those ten minutes of call and response and prayers, a group of children took up glasses of wine and tins of bread from the back to the church.
They handed them to the priest and the priest set them down on a large table located at the front of the church near here the priest and his helpers were sitting. The priest then prayed above the food and said that the bread was the body of Christ and the wine was the blood of Christ. Once he prayed over them, he handed off containers to six other people and they were the ones that gave you the “body” and “blood” of Christ. After you went up to get the bread and wine you came back to your seat and sang one more song before the end of mass.
Overall, St. Colette was relatively mundane in terms of service. There was not anything that stood out or grabbed my attention. Everyone seemed to be muddling through the mass in a daze. The second church that I went to was Newburg United Methodist Church in Livonia. The Methodist Church is known in the Christian community as being a relatively liberal church when it comes to their views. Newburgh United Methodist is accepting of gay marriage and people in the LGBTQ community. The outside of the church is not very exciting when you walk up to it.
It’s a relatively pale brick color and there are not any features that stick out. When you walk through the front doors there is a hallway that takes out into the main area of the church. If you were to walk past the main area of the church and ake a right there is an activities center and auditorium where they hold banquets and activities for the community. When I walked into the main area of the church there were about fifteen pews on either side of the main walkway. The room was bright and had lots of windows, but could only accommodate around two hundred people.
Some people were already in their seats when I arrived. They were dressed pretty casually, wearing jeans and nice tops. Some people had chosen to write out a name tag for themselves so that new church members could know their names. Once the bells chimed eleven o’clock everyone took their seats. Someone prompted us to stand up and take out a song book so that we could sing one of the songs in it. As we were singing the song, the people that were performing the service came down the aisle. When the song was finished everyone sat down and we were all greeted by one of people that walked down the aisle.
He welcomed us all to the church and we had the opportunity to “lift up prayers”. He read off some of the upcoming activities that the church was hosting, and also read off the names of people that needed prayers. He then opened it to the congregation to see if anyone wanted prayers for a member of their family, friends, etc. After this was done there was live music that played. The song was a call and response between the music people and the congregation. After the song the pastor came up and made her sermon. The pastor looked to be pretty young, probably in her mid to late twenties.
Her sermon was about how the original followers of Jesus went against the religious institution of the time and were punished for it, but they knew that what they were doing was what God wanted them to do. She related this back to current events like the Flint water crisis, saying that the government was hurting their people and a group of citizens had to work together to get he word out about it. She also talked about the Detroit Public Schools’ principals that were taking kickbacks even though their schools were falling apart. Her speech was very engaging because she related topics that were relevant today with lessons from the bible.
After her sermon finished we sang one more song and mass was ended. It’s amazing that two churches in the Christian faith could be so different. At St. Colette there was a lot more structure and everything felt “old school”. Things have been done a certain way for years so that’s the way they’re still done. The Catholic Church has been aging and I can nderstand why. They are very judgmental when it comes to people that are different. They say that being in the LGBTQ community is a sin and make divorced people go through a terrible annulment process if they want to get married in the church again.
I think that younger families go to the catholic churches because that’s what they were raised with. I feels more comfortable to them, or they feel a sense of tradition. Unlike St. Colette, Newburg United Methodist Church has a lot of young families and not as many older members. I think this is due to their liberal views. Younger people like that they are accepting f everyone, but older people were not raised in an era that accepted the LGBTQ community so it’s harder for them to change their views so late in life.
The Methodist church is a place for people that don’t want believe in a strict interpretation of the bible. They plain out said that you don’t have to believe a word in the bible, you only have to have a relationship with God. Even the physical attributes of the two churches are drastically different. St. Colette is very large with lots of wooden pews so that they can fit as many people as possible, while Newburg is much smaller with a few cushioned pews. Newburg is a lot more intimate and community oriented than St. Colette.
There are designated spaces for community events at Newburg Church, but not at St. Colette. This definitely shows that their views on what the church is supposed to do are different. St. Colette is more of a once a week religious check-up, while Newburg is more of a religious community. This is supported with the fact that it’s almost impossible for a member to know all of the other members at a big church like St. Colette, but since Newburg is smaller and encourages people to wear name tags they put greater value on knowing everyone personally.