Tuesday, November 29, 2016

McKenzie Kielman on Church Service at the Orthodox Greek Cathedral

            I would be lying if I said My Big Fat Greek Wedding wasn’t tucked in the back of mind as I entered the church that fateful Sunday morning.  As I walked out, my mind was filled with the many similarities of this visit to the others this semester to the Hindu temple, the Catholic mass exclusively in Spanish, and the Jewish synagogue. 
            When entering where the service was held, there was a beautiful dome with iconic scenes painted on the ceiling.  At the front were figures of prominent persons, but the largest image in the whole place was surprisingly Mother Mary.  Once putting a little more thought into it, it seemed logical.  With Greece being in Europe, the saints and Mary in particular hold a much larger role than for other Christian communities.  The statues and even murals were comparable to the deities in the Hindu temple.
            The mass, true to its origin, was in both English and Greek.  We had earlier in the semester gone to a Catholic mass in Spanish alone, but this service was actually harder to follow along with.  They would go for full sections, pages in the book we tried to use to follow along with, and then circle back to do it in English.  A kind woman, Eileen, sat in front of us and helped us along.  An interesting aspect of the service with the constant music.  Even at the end of spoken readings, they would do the last sentences singing.  The choir did a beautiful job and the dome created excellent acoustics. 
            Lastly was the sense of community.  After the two-hour service, the congregation joined together for coffee and food.  It was fun to see the families co-mingling.  Our new friend, Eileen, explained that most of the congregation does have a familial connection with Greece.  Much of the regulars in attendance do speak Greek, and that made me think of the community of the Jewish synagogue.  Both have a non-required, but suggested, heritage; this creates a unique dynamic within the church.  I loved being able to be a part of it for a day. 
            I wasn’t expecting to find so many connections to my other experiences, but it was fun to see ways in which these religions or circumstances related, especially considering how diverse they seemed.  We spent some of our Denver semester talking about inter-faith initiatives, and I think this helps show that there is much common ground that maybe isn’t considered.  I feel more equipped with knowledge as I encounter more persons of diverse religious backgrounds. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Carly Kinning Reflects Through Poetry on Greek Orthodox Church Experience

“A Reassuring Congregation”
I was nervous when entering this new congregation,
But a kind man gave me a welcome package.
I didn’t know where I could sit,
But friendly members guided us to the pews.
It was hard to follow along in the service,
But a gracious woman named Elaine guided me along.
I couldn’t understand the language,
But the singing was beautiful.
I knew little about Greek culture,
But Elaine and her daughter spoke with me about their lives.
I didn’t know if I should stay for coffee and Greek foods,
But I was personally invited to join.
I was nervous to try the different Greek foods,
But Elaine’s daughter assured me the Koliva was delicious.
I was nervous when entering this new congregation,
But I am thankful for the experience I have had. 

Monday, November 7, 2016

Breyanna Primous On Shorter A.M.E. Church and Hometown Experiences

Are most predominantly black churches the same? I have found in my lifetime that they are in fact the same in quite a few aspects—aspects that some churches that do not have predominantly black congregation may not even incorporate into their services. These are the aspects that I have witnessed in my lifetime.
There are many similarities that I want to talk about and the most important one to me would be the ways that they support the community or bring awareness to certain issues in the community. Issues near and dear to my heart such as injustices against blacks and breast cancer awareness and how prominent it is in the black community. My mother, aunt, grandmother’s cousin, some of my mother’s friends and my best friend’s grandmother have all been affected by breast cancer. Because of all these women in my life, breast cancer awareness is something that is very important to me; and to be able to attend a church service dedicated to this, made my heart swell.
Besides the awareness that the church talked about, there were a few other similarities between Shorter Community African Methodist Episcopal Church (Shorter A.M.E.) and the Black Baptist Church that I attend back home. Most importantly, one of the biggest similarities that I have noticed would be the acceptance of the people in the church. The people of Shorter A.M.E. were welcoming and even asked us to write down our info so that they could acknowledge us during the visitor time in the service. Even walking into the church, we were greeted by an elder of the community and she was the first to start the conversation when we arrived. Going to any other church, I have experienced people talking to me after they realize that I blatantly say that I am a visitor or after I initiate the conversation.
Lastly, another aspect that I noticed was similar but very different for my classmates, was the length and involvement of the church. I am completely used to having to sit in those pews for a minimum of two hours, but my classmates have expressed that they have not had to experience that unless it is for a special service or something of that nature. Sami and I warned them that the service would be long, but I do not think that they thought that it would actually be that long. Along with the length, the liveliness, involvement and loudness of the church is just like back home. During the singing, and especially during the pastor’s sermon, the congregation were very lively, meaning they were shouting and out of their pews. Even though this was happening, it was actually quite tame compared to the services back home, and I go to a smaller church than Shorter.
While at the service, we got the chance to speak to Corlissa Boulden, who was the elder of the church that I spoke about earlier. When we arrived to the church she was the first one to talk to us and to engage in conversation with us. This made the church feel more welcoming, having someone who is a part of the church come to us and speak first instead of the other way around. We engaged in a conversation with her about her time at the church and how she feels about the issues of churches and injustices. Miss Boulden told us that she was originally from Kansas City and moved here a little over twenty years ago, and she has been a member of Shorter A.M.E. for about twenty years. She was very insightful about how she feels about the church. She talked about how she believes if the youth are not involved in the church at all, that the church will ultimately not thrive. She also talked about how she does not approve of some of the teaching styles and the way that the youth sometimes dress for service, but she felt that it was more about the worshiping and not what they were wearing.
Out of all of the worship sites and services that we have attended, this has made me the most comfortable. Usually when we have to talk to people at a worship site I tend to be a little nervous about how to approach them and what to say. Shorter A.M.E. was the exact opposite. I felt very comfortable talking to the people that I did talk to. Like I stated before, this service was extremely similar to the services that I attend back home, and I believe that is why I was so comfortable there. I felt like I was transported back to Saint Louis, sitting next to my mother, in our church.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Samantha Kopf on Being a Global Citizen

My experience at the Multicultural Mosaic Foundation has had a big impact on who I am as a person. It has made me realize more so than ever that everyone is human, and that there really isn’t an “other.” From now on if I view someone as an “other,” it isn’t because they are different, rather it is because I have not done a good job at getting to know them and their background.
We live in a society that tells us it is okay to discriminate against people, in fact, our society even tells us who we should discriminate against and often times why. Interestingly, through the media, we further construct which groups should be and are being discriminated against. This is evident in the stories that are covered in the news and how they are framed.
On Wednesday evening, the whole Wartburg West program went to the Multicultural Mosaic Foundation to have food and conversation with individuals who practice the Islamic faith. Of all the places we as a class have gone, this was the trip that I was most excited for because it is a faith that I have heard a lot about, but that I knew very little about. It was also important to me because I’d never really had the opportunity to interact with individuals who are practicing the faith and openly discuss their religion and background with them.
Prior to going to the Multicultural Mosaic Foundation, we had to read a chapter on the Islam faith; this was enlightening because it helped to put the differences and similarities between the Abrahamic faiths into perspective for me. Learning more about Islam through this reading solidified for me that while this Islam is portrayed as very different, it is in reality very similar to the majority faith of the United States, my own faith.
Reading and actual interactions with real people are two very different experiences.  Interacting with the community and individuals at the Multicultural Mosaic Foundation on multiple occasions has been such a wonderful experience. While there, the first thing I was struck by was how strong the sense of community was; everyone knew everyone. Different adults were taking care of all the kids running around and all of the kids were comfortable with all of the adults. Something that was striking was that the community we spoke with did not feel that they faced discrimination often (unless at an airport) this was so interesting to me because the media portrays the population so much differently. This among other experiences has confirmed in my mind that the media is so skewed and therefore is an unscrupulous source for information.
Through this experience and my continued devotion to being a global citizen, I have come to realize how important it is to keep an open mind in all situations.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Aubree Taylor Discusses Experience at Hispanic Mass

            As a small town Iowa native, I was raised studying Christianity to later become a member of the Christian faith. Like my mother, Sundays as a child consisted of early morning mass followed by brunch with my grandparents and other family members who attended mass that same morning. Now as a young adult I feel very knowledgeable about this religion as someone who has worshiped, served and sung in the choir for the past 20 years of my life. 
Not until this past Sunday was it brought to my attention how the same religion can differ in a different language. I was given the opportunity to expand my knowledge of the religion that I was raised by. Growing up in a small town in Iowa, I was not exposed to a variety of languages or religions. I was never challenged to explore how different cultures worship the same religion as I do.
Upon entering the Annunciation Roman Catholic Church in Denver I was eager and excited. Right after stepping into the church I was greeted by a Pastor who asked me if I was aware that this was a Spanish spoken mass, I responded and told him that I was aware of the language that was spoken. For me this stood out that the Pastor was able to tell based off my physical appearance that Spanish was not my first language and that I was part of the minority in the church.  Though I was among four of the people at the service who knew little to no Spanish, members of the church were very inviting, giving us missalettes that included English and Spanish versions of the readings and hymns of the day. 
As the mass proceeded along I picked up on differences from this mass compared to back home besides the difference in language. The Hispanic mass had more involvement overall. I saw this in their church choir and the amount of pastors who took part. I really enjoyed the different instruments/voices that were in the choir. In Iowa I am used to a piano or organ as the only instrument accompanied by a female-dominated choir group. It is typical for a mass to have one pastor/father who on occasion will be accompanied by a deacon. The Hispanic mass included three pastors who were each very involved and shared parts equally throughout the mass.
Overall, I felt like I was able to follow along with the mass very well with my background. I was able to help answer questions that my friends had about mass. At the end of mass, when returning our books to the cart, a lady asked us what brought us to the mass. As a member of the church for many years, it was very noticeable that we were not regulars. I informed her that we are new to the area and looking to find a church that fit us. She then informed me about the English masses. I thanked her and continued to talk about the beauty of the church and the job that the choir did before leaving. Attending a Hispanic Spanish language church allowed me to gain more knowledge about my own religion.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Olivia McAtee Reflects on Attending a Spanish Church Service

            On Sunday, Sami, Carly, Bree, McKenzie and I all went to the Annunciation Roman Catholic Church here in Denver. We attended the 9:30am Spanish service. As we walked in, it was quickly very apparent that we were not regulars. So apparent, in fact, that the Priest brought us over books with the Spanish versions of hymns and verses on one page and the English translation of those on the next page. Though this was a kind gesture and it helped us follow along with the service, it also reinforced the fact that we were not like everyone else in church that morning. I remember Sami making a comment, “is it really that noticeable that we aren’t from here?”
I think being on the other end of this gesture was a good thing for me. At my internship, The Bridge Project, I work with families of all different backgrounds, cultures and languages every day. Sometimes, when I think I’m helping them or going out of my way to make sure they feel comfortable, maybe in reality I’m just making them feel more uncomfortable. Recognizing differences in the people around us is one thing, but acting on those recognitions is another. I think I learned a lot about how my actions when dealing with people from another culture may end up causing more of a divide between us even if I fully intended for it to mesh us together.
We talked to two different people, but I can’t remember the names of either. One had worked as a volunteer coordinator for the church for seven years, so she was able to tell us a lot about how the church has changed over time. For example, there used to be only English services being offered. This quickly transitioned into English and bilingual services offered, which has since become completely English and completely Spanish services offered. They used to have only one or two of each, and just starting last week actually, they now have three of each being offered. It was fascinating to have her walk us through all of the changing demands in language and availability the church has experienced in less than ten years. For me, this really reinforced the rapid growth rate and rising population we’ve talked about.
            The second person we talked to was the Priest. I was hesitant to go up to him at first, thinking maybe he didn’t fully understand English and not wanting to put him in an uncomfortable position or on the spot in any way. As I walked by and shook his hand, he held my hand and said “I haven’t seen you here before, what’s your name?” I was completely taken back. He had no accent at all. This simple question led us into a full on conversation with him and the discovery that he had just only learned Spanish in the last year. This was also a learning experience for me, I was much too quick to label this stranger and had he not stopped me, I never would’ve engaged conversation on behalf of completely false presumptions. 
            Overall, I walked in feeling completely out of my element, and walked out with two new friends and a sense of belonging. They invited all of us back and even asked that we bring our other classmates and friends next time. I’m glad I had the experience I did there, and we’ve already talked about returning… to the English service next time! J

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Nicholas Moore On Realizing Where You Want To Be

            My time out in Denver has been everything I hoped it would be and then some. Everyone is going to tell you about how the culture is so different here in Colorado than the Midwest, but to me I think it is the best of both of worlds.
            Here in Denver the pace of life is fast because it has to be, it is a city after all. But where Denver separates itself from other big cities is its friendly attitude and atmosphere. Growing up near Chicago, I was able to experience the city life and culture whenever I really wanted to. I would often times take the train in to the city with my friends or family and just walk around the city and visit museums or shops. The city was always an enjoyable place for me because I loved to escape the occasional boredom that came with growing up in a smaller town. The one thing I didn’t like about Chicago was the general attitude of everyone for themselves and the lack of compassion for some communities. Here in Denver people are always generally pretty nice to one another and the amount of dedication and care for the community I have seen from so many people I have come into contact with here in Denver. I have actually been fortunate enough to be involved with the community while here in Denver. It feels great to be able to feel like you are making an impact for the city and everyone who lives in it.
            While living in Denver I have realized the need to stay active and appreciate the outdoors is far greater than that of the people in the Midwest. I think I have spent more time at the park or hiking than I spent in my apartment the whole semester. On any given sunny day above 50 degrees you can go to the park just a few blocks away from the apartments and see the entire park covered in Denver residents enjoying the great day. In my opinion, this atmosphere is just something you unfortunately do not get to experience in the Midwest.
            Sometimes though, I feel it is important to just look past how two places differ from each other like the Midwest and states like Colorado in the Rocky Mountain Area and think about where it is you yourself fit in and how you want to live your life. Every region has something for everybody, but for me, I feel like the Denver lifestyle is something that I strongly relate with. In the end, coming out in Denver has confirmed two things for me: My love for the city of Denver will continue to grow every day I spend here and this will certainly not be my last time out West.