Exploring Living Religions in the Silicon Valley
Students in Dr. Elizabeth Drescher’s RSOC 14: Exploring Living Religions course visited several local religious communities across religious traditions to conduct fieldwork on social, cultural, and material expressions of religion and spirituality in the Silicon Valley. Communities involved in fieldwork included: Buddhi Vihara Buddhist Pagoda, Center for Spiritual Enlightenment, Chua Bao Phuoc Temple, Duc Vien Buddhist Pagoda, Gold Sage Monastery, Grace Baptist Church, San Jose Buddhist Church Betsuin, San Jose Quaker (Friends) Meeting House, and San Jose Sikh Gurdwara Sahib, St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Sunday Assembly Silicon Valley, Shri Krishna Vrundavana Temple, and Temple Emanu-el. Students participated in services, attended lectures, and interviewed community leaders and congregants. Students developed community profiles and videos that will be included in the Religious Studies Department’s Living Religions Collaborative website, which will be developed in the new year.
Students report that the diversity of visits and rich, experiential engagement with practicing communities encouraged a greater openness to religious pluralism. As well, the course’s focus on the study of “lived religion,” which highlights concrete, embodied, material expressions of religion in social and cultural context, allowed them to understand religion as being about more than competing beliefs or formal practice, but rather modes of experience integrated in the everyday lives of practitioners.