It was really interesting this week to listen to the different congregation visit presentations, specifically how different people observe congregations different from their own. As a person who grew up in a Catholic congregation, it was interesting to see how those in the class who observed Catholic congregations pointed out things that I never considered unique. For example, I observed that a lot of students who visited Catholic congregations were surprised by the custom to genuflect before entering the pew, as well as the sign of peace. As a person who grew up Catholic, these practices were the norm for me. In fact, I was surprised in my own congregation visit that the Baptist church did not even have pews for me to genuflect before entering, and the informality of the congregation that I visited was quite surprising. It was also really interesting to see how different Catholic congregations practice these customs differently between the differing groups. In particular, it was surprising to learn how different congregations approached the sign of peace. In my own experiences, the sign of peace constituted shaking hands and hugging family members and friends. However, it became clear that this was not the norm for every Catholic church, despite the meaning being the same.
In this sense, the importance of anthropological strangeness became really clear to me, as it is really easy to ignore aspects of communities that you are a part of. I realize that if I had chosen a Catholic congregation to visit, I would have likely ignored the importance of such practices because I would generally regard them as “normal.” In fact, it was the lack of these things that were really evident to me in my own congregation visit.