Religious Studies Fall2010

During fall 2010, students in the class Latino/Latina Religions are documenting the history of St. Mary’s College for Women and Pre-GED school at St. Matthew’s Cathedral, the Episcopal Cathedral in Dallas, which is experiencing a surge in Latino parishioners. Through work in the archives, interviews with Pre-GED School students and volunteers, and ethnographic work with the parish, the class will produce a history of the church and its programs that will enable the congregation to better understand its multicultural make-up, the historic trends that led to this make-up, and the relationship between the church, its programs and the surrounding community.

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Diverse, but divided

konow.jpgAn update from Drew, a senior religious studies and foreign languages and literature major:

5100 Ross Ave. – it is amazing how much history one address can contain. Here, in Dallas, that address houses everything from the records of a first lady’s education and Tiffany’s finest stained glass to the records of English language-learners and Latino cultural festivals.

My work at St. Matthew’s focused on investigating the contemporary parish. In this one parish, we found much more diversity than its exterior monolith intended. We discovered that this East Dallas parish housed two very distinct communities, divided by language and culture.

Time and time again, I return to the images present in the cathedral’s sanctuary. On one side is a print of Our Lady of Guadalupe, and on the other side is a stained-glass portrait of St. Alban. These two icons are the veritable representatives of their patrons. They converse, interact and co-exist, yet they are not one. So, too, the Spanish-speaking and English-speaking groups converse, interact and co-exist. Nonetheless, they are not one, undivided body.

Growing to understand and appreciate the complexities of St. Matthew’s Episcopal Cathedral has enlivened my perspective on religion. Investigating a religious community in Dallas has incarnated the concepts of the classroom into a more complex, nuanced reality. In short, studying St. Matthew’s has amplified my perspective of Dallas, Latino religions and of religion in general.

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