Field Research as a Complete Observer
I attended a catholic mass at St. John’s Cathedral as a complete observer. I have no experience as Catholicism since I have grown up attending a Methodist church. I choose St. John’s cathedral only for me to realize that the second mass I choose was conducted in Latin and since I could not understand Latin, I would only be an observer. My presence inevitably influences the congregation to some degree, but I normalized the situation to my best capability. It is impossible to be among the congregation with so many rituals, yet you understand none and not raise eyebrows. Everyone knew exactly what to say, and the exact time to say it, but I remained completely lost. Everyone seemed part of one cohesive group while I stood there alone.
I arrived at 9:45 AM, about fifteen minutes before starting time; this gave me a pre-service demeanor of the congregation. Mass begins at 10 am with majority people scooting at the door at the last minutes. Unlike the Methodist Church, in this case, there is no catching up, everyone seems to be in a hurry to find a seat. Those who come as a group separate at the door to find spots to sit, barely looking at the people around them. The building is tall, large and ornate cathedral. The ceiling is high with arches, and all sounds seem to echo off the walls. The altar is an intricate design of Christ imagery, with its position placing the priest pulpit in a higher position than the congregation. There are woodcarvings depicting the crucifixion of Jesus. Comparing the inside from outside, it looks like a warehouse with a cross on top, but there are so many decorations inside.
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