Reflections on Field Work

Before this project, I had never attended a Protestant church service before and out of my three experiences with Catholic masses, only one had been in the United States. I chose Woodland Hills because like many of my classmates, I wanted to learn about a religious tradition that felt unfamiliar to me. I am Jewish, both my parents are Jewish, and the line continues as far back as we can trace it. None of my friends growing up were that religious either, so I found myself in the rare position of finding an Evangelical Protestant church as among the sites that I’d had the least prior experience with.

Just because I was unfamiliar with churches like Woodland Hills, though, didn’t mean I lacked preconceived notions about what it would be like. Some of those proved accurate: the rock band performing on a stage felt as unusual to me as I expected it would. When I finally moved past the rock band, the projectors and well-produced videos they often showed during services, and past the shiny stage lighting, however, I found a really beautiful community full of welcoming and friendly people eager to answer all my questions. I would leave on Sundays humming the songs, and found myself mulling over conversations I’d had with congregants all the next week. Overall, Woodland Hills really opened its doors to me and presented an rich introduction to the complicated world of Christianity. I am also incredibly grateful to everyone who helped organize interviews or spoke with me: you made this whole project possible and I can’t thank you enough.

Lillie Schneyer is a Sociology and Anthropology major at Carleton College