Congregations on the Ground: Exploring Local Religious Worlds (Fall 2017)

Religious Studies 771

Professor John Schmalzbauer

Office: Strong Hall 263

Office Hours: MW 3-4:30 p.m.; Th 1:30-3:00 p.m.

Missouri State University


Phone: 836-5918


Course Description


This course will explore how local religious communities do religion through music, architecture, rhetoric, and food.  Readings and class discussions will focus on the literature on “lived religion” and “congregational studies,” paying special attention to the practices of singing, building, speaking, and eating.  Students will conduct local field observations in Ozarks congregations, interpreting what they see through the lens of these two literatures.


Course Goals


1.                  Explore the meaning of religious practices in the lives of Americans

2.                  Understand the role of “lived religion” in American congregations

3.                  Learn about the variety of religious practices in the Ozarks

4.                  Conduct research on lived religion in Ozarks congregations

5.                  To collect interviews on religion in the Ozarks for future scholars and writers


Required Textbook and Electronic Reserve Readings 

  1. Mark Chaves, Congregations in America
  1. David Hall, Lived Religion in America
  1. Richard Callahan, Work and Faith in the Kentucky Coal Fields
  1. Colleen McDannell, Religions of the United States in Practice, Volume 2 (not Volume 1)
  1. Leslie Dorrough Smith, Righteous Rhetoric
  1. Stephen Marini, Sacred Song in America
  1. Gretchen Buggeln, The Suburban Church
  1. Benjamin E. Zeller, et al., Religion, Food, and Eating in North America


Attendance Policy:  Attendance is required at all class meetings. 

Class Participation (10% of grade):
Students will be evaluated on their participation in class discussions, familiarity with the readings, and the insightfulness of their comments.


Reading Reflection Papers (30% of grade): Students will complete seven reading reflection papers of 2-3 pages (see rest of syllabus for due dates).  Reflection papers should include:

-A brief summary of the reading (one-third of the paper)

-A critical analysis of the reading (one-third of the paper)

-Discussion of how the reading might inform your research on an Ozarks congregation (one-third of the paper).


Field Observation Reports (30% of grade): Students will complete four 3-4 page field observation reports based on the same Ozarks congregation.  Each report will focus on a different type of religious practice (music, rhetoric, architecture, food, etc.).  Reports should be modeled on the ethnographic approach found in the class readings (especially Ammerman, Marini, and the contributors to the Lived Religion volume).  Reports should also emulate and discuss readings from former MSU graduate students (Cooper, Riccardi, Hildreth, and Cottrell). Professor Schmalzbauer will give oral instructions about each field assignment in class. 


Field reports are due the following days:

-October 5: Field Report #1 on Congregational Culture

-October 26: Field Report #2 on Congregational Music

-November 9: Field Report #3 on Congregational Architecture

-November 21: Field Report #4 on Congregational Rhetoric

-December 7: Field Report #5 on Congregational Food


Final Research Paper (30% of grade):  Students will complete a 12-15 page research paper focusing on lived religion in a single Ozarks congregation.  Students must meet with Professor Schmalzbauer about the paper at least once during the course of the semester.  Papers should use the “little stories” of Ozarks religion to address larger issues in the fields of lived religion and congregational studies.  This means using readings from the class syllabus to make sense of your findings. 


Papers must incorporate original research drawing on the following sources:

-Five field observations in the same congregation recorded in five detailed field reports

-Two recorded interviews of people in the same congregation using our class questionnaire

-Primary sources (brochures, worship bulletins/programs, hymn or song books, menus, posters/flyers, newspaper stories, etc.) from or about the same congregation

-Scholarly secondary sources on the religious tradition/denomination of the congregation

-Course readings and other scholarly sources on the tradition you are studying


The paper is due in Professor Schmalzbauer’s office prior to 5 p.m. on December 14.  Students must also turn in tapes of the interviews plus signed consent forms on December 14.  Interviews will be donated to Meyer Library special collections.


Extra Credit Points (Possible 15 Points): Students may earn up to 15 extra credit points for attending campus lectures and cultural events approved by the instructor.  The events must be relevant to the academic study of religion. Students will receive 5 points for each event they attend.   To receive the points, students must write a two paragraph summary.


Grading: Grades will be calculated using the following point system:

Class Participation: 10% of Grade

Reading Reflection Papers: 30% of grade

Field Observation Reports: 30% of grade

Research Paper: 30% of grade


Total Number of Points: 1,000


The following grading scale will be used:

4.0 A: Outstanding Work (93-100)

3.7 A- : Excellent Work (90-92)

3.3 B+: Near Excellent Work (87-89)

3.0 B: Very Good Work (83-86)

2.7 B-: Good Work (80-82)

2.3 C+: Slightly Above Satisfactory Work (77-79)

2.0 C: Satisfactory Work (73-76)

1.7 C-: Slightly Below Satisfactory Work (70-72)

1.3 D+: Passing Work (67-69)

1.0 D: Minimum Passing Work (63-66)

0.0 F: Failed—No Credit (0-62)

0.0 I: Incomplete


If a student is on the border of a grade, the instructor will take into consideration the overall performance of the student, class participation, and amount of improvement.


Academic Honesty Policy: Missouri State University is a community of scholars committed to developing educated persons who accept the responsibility to practice personal and academic integrity. You are responsible for knowing and following the University’s academic integrity policy plus additional more-specific policies for each class. The University policy, formally known as the “Student Academic Integrity Policies and Procedures” is available online at and also at the Reserves Desk in Meyer Library. Any student participating in any form of academic dishonesty will be subject to sanctions as described in this policy.

Non-Discrimination Policy: Missouri State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action institution, and maintains a grievance procedure available to any person who believes he or she has been discriminated against. At all times, it is your right to address inquiries or concerns about possible discrimination to the Office for Institutional Equity and Compliance, Park Central Office Building, 117 Park Central Square, Suite 111, 417-836-4252. Other types of concerns (i.e., concerns of an academic nature) should be discussed directly with your instructor and can also be brought to the attention of your instructor’s Department Head.   Please visit the OED website at

Policy on Disability Accommodations: To request academic accommodations for a disability, contact the Director of the Disability Resource Center, Meyer Library, Suite 111, 417-836-4192 or 417-836-6792 (TTY), Students are required to provide documentation of disability to the Disability Resource Center prior to receiving accommodations. The Disability Resource Center refers some types of accommodation requests to the Learning Diagnostic Clinic, which also provides diagnostic testing for learning and psychological disabilities. For information about testing, contact the Director of the Learning Diagnostic Clinic, 417-836-4787,

Dropping this Class: It is your responsibility to understand the University’s procedure for dropping a class. If you stop attending this class but do not follow proper procedure for dropping the class, you will receive a failing grade and will also be financially obligated to pay for the class. For information about dropping a class or withdrawing from the university, contact the Office of the Registrar at 836-5520.

Cell Phone Policy: As a member of the learning community, each student has a responsibility to other students who are members of the community.  When cell phones or pagers ring and students respond in class or leave class to respond, it disrupts the class. Therefore, the Office of the Provost prohibits the use by students of cell phones, pagers, PDAs, or similar communication devices during scheduled classes. All such devices must be turned off or put in a silent (vibrate) mode and ordinarily should not be taken out during class. Given the fact that these same communication devices are an integral part of the University’s emergency notification system, an exception to this policy would occur when numerous devices activate simultaneously. When this occurs, students may consult their devices to determine if a university emergency exists. If that is not the case, the devices should be immediately returned to silent mode and put away. Other exceptions to this policy may be granted at the discretion of the instructor.

Emergency Response Statement: At the first class meeting, students should become familiar with a basic emergency response plan through a dialogue with the instructor that includes a review and awareness of exits specific to the classroom and the location of evacuation centers for the building. All instructors are provided this information specific to their classroom and/or lab assignments in an e-mail prior to the beginning of the fall semester from the Office of the Provost and Safety and Transportation. Students with disabilities impacting mobility should discuss the approved accommodations for emergency situations and additional options when applicable with the instructor. For more information go to and

Mental Health and Stress Management: As a student you may experience a range of personal issues that can impede learning, such as strained relationships, increased anxiety, alcohol/drug problems, feeling down, difficulty concentrating and/or lack of motivation. These mental health concerns or stressful events may lead to diminished academic performance and may reduce your ability to participate in daily activities. You can learn more about free and confidential Missouri State University Counseling Center services available to assist you at

Title IX Policy: Missouri State University has a Title IX policy that guides our response to instances of sexual violence. Sexual Violence includes: Rape, Sexual Assault, Sexual Misconduct, Sexual Discrimination, Domestic Violence, Dating Violence, Stalking, Sexual Harassment and Pregnancy issues. The Title IX policy can be located on the MSU Title IX website at This website is also a good resource for any questions or issues involving Title IX and contains contact information for the MSU Title IX Office and staff.  Read an overview of the Title IX office. If an MSU student discloses a Title IX related issue to a MSU faculty or staff member who is deemed to be a “Responsible Employee” under the policy, that faculty or staff member is required to report such disclosure to the Title IX Coordinator. A responsible employee includes any employee who has the authority to take action to redress sexual violence; who has been given the duty of reporting incidents of sexual violence or any other misconduct by students to the Title IX Coordinator or other appropriate school designee; or whom a student could reasonably believe has the authority or duty to take action.

Chosen Name Policy: A student may choose a name other than their legal name to identify themselves at Missouri State University. A chosen name is different than the student’s legal name. Refer to the Chosen Name policy for more information. Students can provide their chosen first and middle names in the Profile tab of My Missouri State.

Statement on Religious Accommodations: The University may provide a reasonable accommodation based on a person’s sincerely held religious belief.  In making this determination, the University reviews a variety of factors, including whether the accommodation would create an undue hardship. The accommodation request imposes responsibilities and obligations on both the individual requesting the accommodation and the University. Students who expect to miss classes, examinations, or other assignments as a consequence of their sincerely held religious belief shall be provided with a reasonable alternative opportunity to complete such academic responsibilities. It is the obligation of students to provide faculty with reasonable notice of the dates of religious observances on which they will be absent by submitting a Request for Religious Accommodation Form to the instructor by the end of the third week of a full semester course or the end of the second week of a half semester course. 

Religion at a State University: Consistent with Supreme Court decisions regarding the teaching of religion at public institutions (Abington v. Schempp 1963), this course approaches the study of religion from a non-confessional standpoint.  We will focus on describing and analyzing the place of religion in American culture, rather than arguing for one religious tradition or another.  Students are free to express or not to express their own beliefs in class. 


Unit I: Introduction to Congregations and Lived Religion

August 24: Introduction to the Study of Congregations and Lived Religion

Reading: “Definitions of Practice.”

Reading: Nancy Ammerman, “Lived religion as an emerging field.” 


August 31: Mapping American Congregations Today

Reading: Mark Chaves, Congregations in America.


**Due in Class: Reading Reflection Paper #1 on Today’s Reading**


September 7:  Studying Lived Religion in America

Reading: David Hall, editor, Lived Religion in America


**Due in Class: Reading Reflection Paper #2 on Today’s Reading**


Unit II: Exploring Religious Practices

September 14: Case Study—Appalachian Lived Religion

Reading: Richard Callahan, Work and Faith in the Kentucky Coal Fields.


Film in Class: “Powerhouse for God”


**Due in Class: Reading Reflection Paper #3 on Today’s Reading**


September 21:  Religions of the United States in Practice

Reading: Colleen McDannell, ed., Religions of the United States in Practice. Pay special attention to the introduction and the sections on singing, teaching, and persuading.


**Due in Class: Reading Reflection Paper #4 on Today’s Reading**


September 28: Methods for Observing Religious Practices

Reading: Nancy Ammerman, “Culture and Identity in the Congregation,” from Studying Congregations: A New Handbook


Reading: Website on congregational culture. Available at


**Due in Class: Online Human Subjects Training:


October 5: Reports from the Field—Observing Religious Practices in the Ozarks

**Due in Class: Field Report #1: Congregational Culture and Identity**


Unit III: Singing

October 19: Sacred Song in America

Reading: Stephen Marini, Sacred Song in America: Religion, Music, and Public Culture


**Due in Class: Reading Reflection Paper #5 on Today’s Reading**

October 26: Sacred Song in the Ozarks

Reading: Travis Cooper, “The Production of Pentecostal Music at Evangel Temple,” 90-130.


**Due in Class: Field Report #2 on Congregational Music**


Unit IV: Building

November 2:  Sacred Architecture in America

Reading: Gretchen Buggeln, The Suburban Church: Modernism and Community in Postwar America.


**Due in Class: Reading Reflection Paper #6 on Today’s Reading**


November 9: Ozarks Religious Architecture

Reading: Sarah Riccardi, “Praying Through Windows and Peering Through Wood: Examining Vernacular Devotions in American Eastern Orthodoxy Through a Materialist Lens,” 33-57.


**Due in Class: Field Report #3 on Congregational Architecture (including digitized photos)** 


Unit V:  Speaking

November 16: Religious Rhetoric in America

Reading: Leslie Dorrough Smith, Righteous Rhetoric: Sex, Speech, and the Politics of Concerned Women for America.


**Due in Class: Reading Reflection Paper #7 on Today’s Reading**


November 21: Religious Rhetoric in the Ozarks

Reading: Micah L. Hildreth, “‘Be Not Conformed to This World’: a History of Worldliness in the Assemblies of God,” 128-178.


**Due in Class: Field Report #4 on Congregational Rhetoric**


Unit VI: Eating

November 30: Food and Religion

Reading: Benjamin Zeller, Religion, Food, and Eating in North America.


**Due in Class: Reading Reflection Paper #8 on Today’s Reading**


NOTE: The interview questionnaire will be finalized on November 21.


December 7: Eating in the Ozarks

Reading: Monica Leigh Peck Cottrell, “Sowing the Seeds of Change: an Ethnographic Study of the Religious Motivations of Producers and Consumers of Locally Produced Foods,” 35-102.         


**Due in Class: Field Report #5 on Congregational Food**


December 14: Final Paper, Recordings of 2 Interviews, and 2 Signed Consent Forms Due by

5 p.m. at Professor Schmalzbauer’s Office (Strong Hall 263).   

Guidelines and Timetable for Research Projects


1.         Our class must get approval from the Human Subjects Protection Committee before doing any field observations or interviews.  This means that you must complete the  

            online human subjects training by September 28. Complete the CITI Training. (  You should give your course

            completion report to Professor Schmalzbauer that day in class.


2.               You must choose an Ozarks congregation to do your field observations and interviews by September 21, 2017 so that you can complete the field assignment due

            on September 28.  Professor Schmalzbauer would like to approve your choice of congregation. Professor Schmalzbauer will make available lists of area congregations early

            in the semester.  


3.                 All field observations must be conducted at the same congregation.  You must complete       your congregational field observations by the following due dates:

            -October 5: Field Report #1 on Congregational Culture

            -October 26:  Field Report #2 on Congregational Music

            -November 9: Field Report #3 on Congregational Architecture

            -November 21: Field Report #4 on Congregational Rhetoric

            -December 7: Field Report #5 on Congregational Food


            All field observations must abide by the human subjects guidelines required by

            Missouri State University.  Professor Schmalzbauer will go over these guidelines (and the     application we submit to the Human Subjects Protection Committee) in class.


4.                The class will write an interview questionnaire together, including questions 

            addressing the following themes: cultural practices, music, architecture, rhetoric, and food.


            Professor Schmalzbauer will serve as editor and compiler of the questionnaire. Since we will not complete the questionnaire until November 21, he will not be able to

            email you the final version of the questionnaire until the evening of the 21st.  Plan onscheduling your two interviews for the period of November 22nd to December

            7th (the sooner the better).  Remember the interviews must be recorded and you must get    signed consent on the forms.


5.                 Your paper should include some research on the religious tradition that the    congregation is a part of.  Prof. Schmalzbauer can help you with this part.


6.                The final paper itself is due before 5 p.m. on December 14, 2017 in Professor

             Schmalzbauer’s office (Strong 263).  Students must also turn in two recorded interviews and two signed consent forms at this time.  Interviews may be donated to

             Meyer Library archives where they be available to scholars and the general public