An American Perspective on Faith in Europe

Browsing Posts published by Leigh Anne Zinsmeister

Musically Connected: Music in two different faiths

by Leigh Anne Zinsmeister

Sikhism and Anglicanism appear to be polar opposites, and in many ways they are. Sikhism, born in India 500 years ago, is a relatively young presence in England, whereas the Anglican Church has been the nation’s established church since the 16th century. One thing that ties these two religions together is their reliance on music as part of their worship and faith.

Sikh Music: Spiritual Connection

Sikhs of all ages come to worship in the peaceful prayer hall of the Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara, a temple in Southall, a suburb west of London. They walk quietly up to the front to the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, their holy scriptures, which rests on an elaborately decorated altar. Men, women, teens and children make an offering, kneel and touch their heads to the floor. A man waves a short silver baton topped with soft white material over the holy scriptures, keeping the air pure. continue reading…

I’ve been so preoccupied with taking pictures at St. Bride’s and trying to coordinate a time when James and I (and his computer!) can get together to start the editing process that my music and faith story seems to have fallen by the wayside.

When I got to the computer lab about an hour ago I popped in my flash drive with the story and Carol’s edits on it and set to work. The interviews have been done since Sunday, tanscribing took place that evening, and research…well. I usually do research at the beginning of my process, but because of the computer situation, I had to put it off until the very end this time. Mixing up my routine has been interesting to say the least, and certainly a worthwhile experience, but it’s not something I’ll do often once I get home. For those who don’t know, I’m a pretty big fan of routine.

Normally I would have been all over the Internet days ago looking up background information about St. Bartholomew the Great and evensong and just generally music in the Anglican church. But nope, I had to walk blind into an interview with someone I knew nothing about. I vastly prefer being prepared – makes me sound like less of a bimbo, I think. I stumbled through questions and later wrote my draft without being able to verify facts from the interview or do futher research on things that sound interesting or like they might pertain to my story.

Instead, I wrote the entire thing with no double-checking. And nearly had a heart attack. My tiny pink notebook quickly became filled with a list of “things to look up next time you have Internet”…and I had no idea when that would be. Today, it turns out. I have frantically been looking things up, changing nearly every detail of my story as I discovered that I truly had no idea what I was yapping on about. I know, I ought to be used to that after 20 years, but usually in my writing is the ONE place I can sound halfway intelligent. Turns out I’d been spelling my source’s name wrong becaus I misunderstood his accent. Way to go, me.

At this point, everything has been fixed. The introduction and conclusion (which I HATE with a passion) have been written, a title has been slapped on, and all I need is a final edit. Good thing, since tomorrow is jam packed and it’s due Friday morning.

I think it’s safe to say that I’m never going into a story without doing research ever again.

With only 49 hours left in London, it’s crunch time on these last two projects.

Yesterday, I woke up bright and early and headed to communion at St. Bride’s – not exactly what we thought it would be. Including myself, there were a grand total of 3 people and one priest reading from the Book of Common Prayer and taking the bread and the wine. Oh, and there’s a strict no photo policy during all services. The phrase “strictly forbidden” was used. But everyone was super nice and I’m so glad that I went. Afterward, I spent a good hour and a half wandering around and snapping photographs, which I’m getting ready to edit here in a bit.

As far as not having people in my shots, well, crap happens. I’m focusing my piece on the history of the church (I know, you’re shocked. I’m such a history buff). But this church has been through so much since the Romans first occupied the space.  I want to demonstrate where it’s been more than what it is now, because if not for its fascinating history it wouldn’t be the fascinating place that it is now.

I’m really excited about producing my first multimedia piece. Writing comes so naturally to me that it’s been fun having a bit of a challenge. My dinky Kodak point-and-shoot surprised me and James both by taking halfway decent photos the other day, and it was exciting getting to use his slightly fancier Canon on my shoot yesterday. I’m anxious to put this altogether and tell a story WITHOUT words!

Ironically, despite the computer situation, for the first time on this trip I am actually feeling as if I might get everything done.

Yesterday, Alex and I ditched the Jewish culture story and moved on to Plan 5 of 5, so this better pan out!

I’m finished with my music story, I think, after a wonderful meeting with a piano player/choir member at St. Bartholomew’s, perhaps the most beautiful church I have visited thus far. It was built in 1123, and the sanctuary was filled with incense, allowing for a smoky atmosphere reminiscent of Harry Potter (No, I’m not a fan, but I can appreciate beautiful architecture!) Anyway, Peter was marvelous and even played a bit for us.

Afterward, we walked down to Fleet Street to begin our third and final project — a profile on St. Bride’s, otherwise known as the Journalists Church. This is a particularly challenging story for us because we’ve had to switch roles: Alex will be writing the profile, and I will be putting together the accompanying photo slideshow. Completely intimidating? Absolutely. But I’m very excited about it and passionate about the topic, so I hope that at least that will show. I just hope I have time to put it together. With eight students working on two projects each on a grand total of four computers, well … you do the math.

Alex and I headed back out to Southall today to work on our music in religion story. Thanks to weekend construction on the tube, it took us two hours and four trains to get there. Luckily, our spirits were lifted by another chat with the owner of BINA Musical and taking lots of still photos and video both there and at the temple. The guy we talked to at the temple on Thursday wasn’t there, but another wonderful man who worked there gave us an awesome interview and allowed us to take photos and video wherever we wanted.

Upon our (slightly shorter, 3-train) return to Islington, we stopped at our favorite pub for burgers (which we’ve both been craving since our arrival) and beverages, and returned to the flat with the intention of getting dressed up and going to the movies.

And then our spirits came crashing down again when we discovered that our apartment had been broken into, all four computers stolen, among other things. It’s been quite a crazy five hours to say the least, and goodness knows how we’ll ever get things done, but I’m sure that somehow we will.

I may post another, more detailed, blog soon, but for now I’m borrowing Richard’s and wanted to post a quick update. Plans are up in the air, but don’t worry, we’ll work it all out and all is well.

Well, my friends, it’s been a while. Rome was a whirlwind, but a wonderful whirlwind of sightseeing, shopping and being with friends. While I like London as a city more, it was nice to be carefree for those few days.

But now, it’s back to the grind. As of right now, we have one week to pull two stories out of thin air. It’s pretty much the sort of challenge I’ve been preparing for during two years of journalism school (and many years of training before that). Although it’s stressful, intimidating and about 800 other synonyms, it’s also a bit exhilarating. I’ve always felt that my stories take on a life of their own and write themselves, and I can’t wait to see how these final two projects turn out. continue reading…

Opus Dei: Misunderstood?

By Leigh Anne Zinsmeister

Every day Paul Harman — and 87,000 others like him around the world — wake up, attend Mass, read scripture, pray a rosary and offer their day up to God.

Every week Harman attends weekly 45-minute “circle” classes, where he and a small group of others pray and read the gospel together.

Every month he devotes two hours to recollection, where he reads, prays or chats with a priest.

And once a year he attends a retreat dedicated to the same prayer and scripture that consume his daily life. continue reading…

… you apparently have incredibly terrible Internet service.

At first we thought it was us, just in our apartment. Then we thought maybe it was the complex, since some of the guys were having trouble too. But no, apparently the entire country of Italy just has really terrible Internet connections, which obviously makes our jobs as journalists much more difficult.

So far Rome has been an overwhelming blur. I’m amazed at how much culture shock I’m suffering. For me, Italy was THE reason to come on this trip. Ireland and England were just bonus pit stops. But in Ireland (where I didn’t experience much culture shock or, surprisingly, jet lag at all), I ended up having the time of my life and falling completely in love with the city of Dublin. So between that, and having built up Italy to be the BEST PLACE EVER, it was a bit of a surprise to find that, well, it’s challenging to be in a country where you don’t speak the language or know the customs. continue reading…

Well, it looks like this story might actually come together after all. Good thing, too, since we have to present to the group tonight.

On Sunday, Alex and I decided to walk around Dublin and shoot video of people doing ordinary, everyday things, since that’s what Opus Dei is all about. Afterward, we went to mass at this beautiful Catholic church

and got pictures and video there, so the visual aspect of the project is set (even though I’m not supposed to be worried about that!).

Today, we have a phone interview with Father Joe Jones at Dublin City University. Even though he’s not Opus Dei, as a Catholic priest we hope he’ll have knowledge and opinions we can incorporate into our story. Then, tonight, we have an interview with Paul Harman, a member of Opus Dei who should be able to fill in the remaining holes.

Although it’s exciting to be so close to finishing our first piece, the work is far from over. After an editorial meeting in the wee hours of Monday morning, Alex and I decided to carry over our Opus Dei story to Rome and London, hopefully creating a contrast piece featuring the religion in each of the three cities. You’ll be hearing from us soon!

Alex and I have paired up to do a story on Opus Dei, a controversial movement within Catholicism,  in Ireland. It’s a fascinating subject that has grasped us both — Alex because she’s Catholic and me because, well, I like controversy. Paul McNamara, the professor we’ve all teamed up with at Dublin City University, seemed enthusiastic about the idea and said people are open and willing to discuss Opus Dei, so we dived in head first.

So far, we have one source for sure: Paul Harman, who works with Opus Dei and for the university. We got his contact information from Professor Patrick Kinsella and will be meeting Harman Tuesday evening for an interview. We e-mailed a priest and a minister who work at the Inter Faith Center at the university and are waiting to hear back. We also plan to contact people in Indiana Alex knows who are a part of Opus Dei so we can compare the practice in the two countries.

Tomorrow, we’ll head to an Opus Dei center up the road from our hotel to take pictures and, we hope, meet some people. Despite the disorganization, I refuse to let it stress me out.