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Ethnographic Research Paper Cultural Anthropology Dr.

Brian Patterson

Philip McBride Box: 775 12/2/12

For my Ethnography Report, I wrote about how people worship in a primarily AngloSaxon church, specifically Parkside Church in Waconia Minnesota. Being in a rather small town, Waconia is not very culturally diverse. However, being near to Crown College, Parkside attendees range from a very large variety of ages. There are many college students, young families, older families, teenagers, and elderly. Parkside is generally used as a worship center on Sunday mornings. In fact, the 2 times that I attended to observe the church, was at the 10:30 service. While Parkside is home to many different people from many different walks of life, the people in the community tend to be a little bit on the upper-class end of the social spectrum. Therefore, this tends to be true of the people who attend Parkside. It is interesting to observe the different subcultures of the church. There is a good group of college students from Crown who generally sit together in the back of the far left side of the sanctuary. There is also a good amount of teenagers who attend Parkside Church. Amongst the congregation there are also a good amount of younger families with small kids. Many of the elders and people who hold positions of leadership in the church are professors from Crown College. In fact, a lot of those who contribute to Parkside Church are from Crown College. Other occupations that are held by Parkside attendees include Doctors, County political figures, and many different blue collar positions. While I was observing the worship that was happening at Parkside, I sat in the back left-hand side of the church. Coincidentally (or maybe not so coincidentally) I was sitting amongst mostly other Crown students. It was interesting to observe the people around me and take into account the different ways that people worshipped. The question that I centered the focus of my report on was the way that people worship at Parkside Church. For the most part, the story is the same regardless of the age, gender, or

ethnicity. Most people at Parkside just sing along while they stand and watch the band play worship music. A couple things that I gathered were social-nonverbal cues that people would pick up from each other. It seemed that there were specific times when it was acceptable to raise your hands in worship; however, at other times it was not. No one seemed to clap their hands unless the worship leader started to, in the same fashion, people would stop clapping when the leaders would stop. I did not interact with very many people, in order to be removed from the situation I was observing so that the results would not be different. Some challenges that I faced included not interacting with more people. It would have been more productive to have done research at a church that I do not attend on a regular basis. This made my observations a bit skewed as I am part of the system that I was observing. Despite these difficulties it was very interesting to observe the different trends and habits in a scenario that I take part in on a regular basis. I did not use any other kinds of methods besides participant observation in my research. It is interesting to think about why these patterns in worship happen this way at Parkside while at another church they may worship differently. However, one must also factor in all of the other variables, such as the way the band is set up or the position that the pastor is in when he is speaking. These things factor into how the congregation responds. The way the band is set up puts the worship leader on one side, the drums behind him, and all the other musicians on the opposite side of the leader. Their attitude towards worship and even the spots in which they are standing makes a difference as to how we respond. In this semismall town in Minnesota, most of the people in the church come from more reserved and conservative backgrounds. Also, when the pastor speaks, he is sitting in a chair. While I know that the pastor got in the habit of sitting in a chair after he tore his Achilles tendon, and has just kept doing so after it healed up, this may be a turn off towards some new comers. No matter how

interesting the message is, people are bound to get into it more if the speaker is more animated. The people up on stage have a big effect on the people in the congregation. This is shown by the fact that the people stopped clapping when the worship leader did, rather than continuing on as the Spirit led. While some of the younger people seemed to get more into the worship by tapping their feet or raising their hands. Another interesting observation that I found was that at certain times in the songs, people would put their hands up in worship. It was like there was a social code as to the exact point of the song that everyone should raise their hands at. I have always been curious about this topic because I grew up overseas where worship was brought to life in a much more charismatic way. After doing this research, I believe that the way that we worship, hugely depends on the examples put forth by the leader. There were people in the congregation however that disregarded these cultural norms and were worshipping God in their own ways. This generally just included irregular patterns of clapping and maybe a little bit more dancing. There was the exception of the family in front of me that was breaking a couple social norms. The two sons wanted to talk but they were separated by their parents who wanted them to pay better attention. Watching this family was very interesting, the more that the sons committed social deviance through disruption of the worship service, the mother seemed to be trying to overcompensate by raising her hands more and being more intentional in worship. Other than this one instance, there were not too many moments in which I could observe social disruptions to this worship service. There was one point in the service that a baby started crying, this seemed to break the congregations focus of worship for an instance, but not for very long. In order for a stranger to survive in this scenario, they must learn to observe the way the people around them are acting, and put it into practice. This project taught me a lot about the

church and how we dont put a lot of energy or joy into our worship and act more like it is just a chore to be done in the church. It was very insightful for me to do this observation in my own church and see all of the weird habits that I generally dont even notice. As far as the positioning of the people in the church, it seemed that most of the regular attendees sat in the center section, the college students on the left side, the teenagers on the right section, and most of the new people in the back of all three sections. This made it less awkward for newcomers to come and sit down quietly in the back of the church.