Religious Studies in Practice
Religious Studies often stresses the study of sacred texts and religious ideas, but it also recognizes the social and practical dimensions of religion. Often the best way to learn about these is through firsthand experience, not only thinking, but doing as a participant observer. Our students do volunteer work in a local hospice, study sitting meditation, experience Native American sweat lodges, learn Indian folk music, visit Egyptian pyramids, study Hindu temple life in upstate NY, and Buddhist monasticism in China.
Students encounter sacred spaces during site visits to churches, monasteries, utopian societies, museums, and other interesting places. In recent years, destinations have included Zen Mountain Monastery in Mt. Tremper, NY, the Gettysburg Battlefields in PA, Ground Zero, and the Holocaust Museum in Washington D. C. Politics permitting, the department also sponsors a January trip to Egypt to study ancient religious art and architecture.
We also build. Sandy Huntington's course Architecture of the Sacred began with an exploration of the spiritual principles that inform alternative architecture and ended up designing and building a full sized structure. The Strawbale and Cob Houses at Hartwick's Pine Lake Campus are the fully realized results of this collaborative effort. In addition, students in Gary Herion's course on Judaism learn about the Festival of Sukkot by constructing a Sukkah on campus, and others volunteer to help build homes with Hartwick's Habitat for Humanity chapter.