Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Although I haven't visited a mosque yet, there is a lot to be said by solely viewing the website of the "Islamic Community of Bryan College Station". Although the format is very simple asthetically, the content is sufficient to educate beleivers and nonbelievers alike on the type of organization Islam prides itself in being. The home page has three main links. One gives you the opportunity to learn more about islam by scheduling a meeting or even a visit to the mosque. The other option is for people who are new to the area, and the third option is a portal where you can go to donate to the mosque. Having researched the history and beliefs of the Islam religion, it is clear why these three categories are addressed immediately on their home page. Islam stresses the role of community and helping one another. It is no surprise that the they would want to teach their faith and help new comers, to better emerge them into the islam community. Another aspect of community that they hold high is "zakat" or the idea of giving money to help the common good of the community. These three links: donation, new comers, and informationals represent three fundamental values of the Islam community, and their simple but helpful website clearly represents that.

The Hindu Society of Brazos Valley

After attending the Annual Cultural Day at the Shri Omkarnarth Temple on Saturday, I was able to understand how important their Hindu history and tradition are. It was a large event that included dances, plays put on by the children, and a live band. They wore traditional Hindu attire known as the kurta for men and the sari for women. However, there was also a modern appeal to the temple as many were dressed in nice everyday clothes as well. Their main goal for the event was to demonstrate their Hindu values and customs. Their digital tools included microphones, projectors and screens, and sound amplifiers.

Rohr Chabad Jewish Student and Community Center

I attended an orthodox service at the Rohr Chabad Jewish Student and Community Center on a on a Friday night. Hanging on the walls in the building there were signs displaying social media information for the Rabbi to connect with Jewish students with. There was no use of new media used during the service only old media techniques were used, such as oral prayer. Once the service ended the Rabbi encouraged those at the service to connect with him through facebook and twitter, where he post information regarding the center.

Central Baptist Church

I attended Central Baptist Church in Bryan, Texas. From the beginning of my worship experience it was very clear to me that new media would play a major role in the delivering of their Sunday message. From the praise and worship time to the pastor's message, Central cultivated numerous forms of digital technology to execute their service. Many of the audio/visual techniques and instrumentation used during the corporate praise and worship time was similar to that of a secular concert. Along with this, the pastor utilized the projector screen to convey visual representations and guidelines of his sermon. All of these aspects I believe made for a more well-rounded and easily received worship service. I also explored Central's website and found an array of online resources that they use to spread their message. One of their great digital tools are weekly podcasts of the Sunday sermons. They also broadcast weekly messages on radio and television for those who cannot attend the service in person. All in all, I was very impressed with the multiple ways in which Central Baptist Church utilizes new media to convey and spread their Gospel message.

Monday, September 26, 2011

I attended A&M United Methodist Church with Pam Witte this past Sunday. Considering there were two different types of services offered, Contemporary and Traditional, we attended half of each service. As was expected, the traditional service had little to no use of media during the service. We sang out of hymnals, and there weren't any screens or references to media during the sermon. However, the contemporary service had a large projection screen for lyrics to worship music, announcements, and power points for the sermon. The pastor made a few references to twitter and facebook and mentioned his own facebook account. There was also an announcement concerning their "e-Prayer team" online, suggesting that the members submit their prayer requests online so that a prayer team can pray for them after receiving an e-mail. It was very clear that the church is trying to satisfy all generations and opinions on the use of new media in religion with the differences in the two services.

A&M United Methodist Church

    Sunday I was able to visit A&M United Methodist Church with Caitlin Mccoy. There were three service times, two of which were Traditional services and one Contemporary service. Caitlin and I went to half of each service to compare the two. While the traditional service lacked media, the Contemporary service contained a projector, loud music, and power points. The pastor also mentioned his Facebook account in this service. Paper bulletins always advertised the church website thus emphasizing their belief in a connected church body. The church services revealed a connection to historical roots as well as innovations for today's society.

Chabad Student Center

I attended the TAMU Chabad Student Center this past Friday night along with Mallory and Stephanie.  We interviewed Rabbi Yossi Lazaroff and learned that the center serves as an institution for education where Jewish students come to learn. This particular community would be defined as Orthodox, in that they follow the laws of the Torah. There was no social media used at all in the service as the Rabbi said, their “media” was the use of their mouth, in that this was the way they revealed thought.  Although the use of media is not used whatsoever in the service, this does not mean he discourages its use altogether.  Rabbi Yossi has a Facebok, Twiiter, Youtube, Website, and is a user of many more social media websites as he said this was his way to make himself “relevant.”  Reflecting back on the interview, he was one of the most knowledgeable people on social media I have ever met.   

Rohr Chabad Jewish Center at Texas A&M University

I had the opportunity to visit the Rohr Chabad Jewish Center in College Station one Friday evening. The Friday evening services are significant because they mark the beginning of Shabbat, or the Jewish Sabbath. This organization is part of a smaller sect of Judaism known as the Chabad Lubavitch movement. During the service, the congregation refrained from using any and all media resources in observance of Shabbat. The 45-minute service consisted of prayers spoken in Hebrew from the book of Psalms. Although media was absent from the service, I admired the Chabad Lubavitch traditions and culture.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Media in LDS Worship

Sunday I attended Sacrament Meeting and Sunday School at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints with my two new friends, Elder Chang and Elder Stephens. Coming from a conservative, Reformed Christian background, this was a stark contrast to everything I know. The most surprising factor in my eyes was how ambiguous and bland the services were in a technological aspect. Virtually no information was provided prior to each one-hour segment in what we would be studying or learning about, or even really what we were doing apart from the titles of each event. For how accepting the LDS church is of technology, modernity was absent from weekly worship.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Looking at Local Religious Communities Engagement with Media

In week four you will be asked to do participant-observation in a local religious community and reflect on their engagement with media.  This also relates to section four of your first paper for COMM 460.  In order to complete this assignment you will need to take note of and respond to the following questions:
  • What forms of media do you see displayed or advertised in the worship building?
  • What media forms are used in the worship service?
  • How are attendees instructed/encouraged to interact with the media in certain way?
  • What seem to be the core beliefs/values of the community emphasized in the service?
  • What seems to be the relationship between the community and the larger world/culture and the media?
Based on this please post a 50-100 word summary as a comment to this post summarizing where you did you observation what you learned about the particular group's use and negotiation with media before class on 27 September.  Looking forward to hearing about what you learned!

Monday, September 5, 2011

What is Religion?

Religion is a term which evokes many ideas and images, meaning different things to different people.  Based on our class discussion up to this point how would you define the term "religion"? Finish this sentence, "Religion is...."  Write your answer as a comment to this post.