Overview of the R. S. Curriculum

Last Updated: 17 May 2023
Essay type: Coursework
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R.S Coursework

For this pieces of coursework I had to visit two places of worship. I decided to choose two local churches in my area. I chose to take pictures of St Benedicts Catholic Church and St Andrews United Reformed Church. I picked these two as they are contrasting church to each other.

These are the questions I had to answer:

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  1. Visit two local Christian places of worship. Using pictures and/or diagrams, describe the main features of the buildings and the furnishings.
  2. Explain the significance of these features and furnishings for the worshipper and how they reflect and assist belief.
  3. "You do not need to go to a place of public worship to be a Christian.' Do you agree? Give reasons to support your answer and show that you have thought about different points of view.
  4. Visit two local Christian places of worship. Using pictures and/or diagrams, describe the main features of the buildings and the furnishings.

To two Christian places of worship, which I am going, to look at are St Benedict Catholic Church and St Andrews United Reformed Church which is a non-conformist church. This means that they reject the doctrine and discipline of the Church of England.

St Benedict Catholic Church is a Roman Catholic Church. This means that it has the pope as its leader. The pope lives in Rome and is Bishop of the city, this is why Roman is part of the name. Catholic literally means 'world-wide'. All churches across the globe that are in union with the pope are Roman Catholic Churches.

Catholics believe after Jesus died he made Peter the leader of the Church in Rome, and the bishops of Rome are therefore his successors.

The pope lives in the independent state of Rome, the Vatican. The Cardinals who are the chief bishops advise him. In St Benedicts there is a bishop who looks after the church as well as parish priests.

Roman Catholic Churches believe that the bishops are a living link with the first Church that descended from the Twelve Apostles. St Benedicts as well as being a Catholic Church it is also a monastery where 20 monks live and pray They have a set routine at which they start prayer at six in the morning.

Catholic churches are known to be over the top and ornate, with glamorous stain-glass and beautiful statues. These can all be seen in the photos taken of inside St Benedicts.

The United Reform Church was formed in 1972 when the Congregational Church and the Presbyterian Church of England joined together.

In St Andrews Church like other United Reformed Churches it is independent and elects its own minister. All churches are part of a federation with twelve moderators as overseers. Britain is divided up between them into Provinces.

A moderator is elected and can stop being a moderator if they want to. However a bishop once consecrated always remains a bishop. The United Reformed Church doesn't have the pope as their leader. Some time ago there was a large split in the Western Church, a movement called the Reformation. It questioned the traditional teachings, these Reformed Churches no longer accepted the pope as their leader. The United Reformed Church only recently formed looks mainly to the Bible for guidance just like other Reformed Churches.

St Benedicts church from the outside is incredibly flamboyant. It stands high above houses. You are able to see the huge stain-glass window and large entrance. By having steps at the front it makes the church even more important. The United Reformed church on the outside is a large church. There is a modern wing added on which is a centre for the worshippers. In contrast even though it is still quite a dominant church it is not as over-powering from first glance as St Benedicts is.

Inside St Benedicts is a huge Catholic Church. Like other Catholic Churches it has a high ceiling, with the altar at the end of the church and two intricate stain-glass windows on opposite ends. There are many pews and archways on either side indicating the opalescence of Roman Catholic churches. There are many steps inside the church and also a lot of marble.

In contrast the United Reformed Church inside is smaller and feels more like a close community. This is true, as there is a centre, which you first enter into which is modern, where worshippers can sit and talk, and there are various rooms off.

There is also a family tree of all the worshippers at St Andrews's church; it is very much a close knit community. Inside the church area it is modern and quite small. It is simple with only chairs facing the altar and lectern.

The altar in St Benedict's church is at the back of the church near where the choir sits. There are a few steps up to it and then another step to the altar. It is made of marble and seems modern but expensive. With the most important symbol for a Christian a cross in the centre of it. Above the altar is Jesus on the crucifix an important symbol of Catholic worship.

In St Andrews Church the altar is on a small raised platform. It is wooden and looks quite modern. It doesn't stand out as much as the altar does in St Benedict's, however the altar has a small cross in centre of it like in St Benedicts church.

Surprisingly the lectern in the Catholic Church is very simple and small. It doesn't indicate any kind of grandeur like other features of the church. It also acts more like a reading desk than a lectern where passages from the Bible are read.

The lectern in the United Reformed Church is again like the altar simple. It is wooden with a cross on the front of it. There are two of them on either side of the altar. As well as acting as a place for the bible to rest on, it also acts as a place for the minister to read the bible from. I believe that the lectern in the United Reformed church acts more like a reading desk than a traditional lectern like in St Benedicts. The lecterns in both churches are rather simple. I might have expected the traditional lectern of an eagle over the world symbolising God reaching every part of the globe in the Catholic Church.

Inside St Benedicts the font is at the entrance of the church. It is similar to the altar. It has a step up to it and is modern and made of marble. It is a large font and unlike traditional fonts.

The font in the United Reformed church is very much smaller and is traditional and made of marble. It carries only a small amount of holy water and instead of being in the main part of the church it is at the front entrance of the church next to the door in the central part of St Andrews church. Unlike inside the Catholic Church the font has a lid on protecting the holy water.

One of the most ornate features in the Catholic Church is the stain glass. There are two pieces one on either end of the church. They are large pieces of glass with incredible detail of images depicting Biblical stories. There are also smaller pieces across the length of the church. This type of elaborate stain glass would be expected inside a Catholic Church.

In St Andrews's church there are smaller pieces of stain glass and are much simpler. They are not of a specific theme but instead a plain pattern.

There are certain features in St Benedict's church that are not in the United Reformed Church. One important feature for the Catholic Church that isn't in the other church is Jesus on the cross. Crucifixion is a major part of the Catholic religion, whereas in the United Reformed Church they do not believe in the crucifixion of Jesus.

There are also various plaques, which show and tell the story of the crucifixion of Jesus. Which indicate the importance of the crucifixion. On the plaques Jesus is painted in gold symbolising his importance. In the Catholic Church there is also a confession booth where any Christian can confess their sins to a priest. Unlike other items in the church the booth is simple and is modern inside. It doesn't stand out like other features for example the altar or font. There is also a scene of the nativity inside St Benedict's as this is also an important part of Christianity. It is in a box and has a detailed scene of the birth of Jesus and the town of Bethlehem. There are a lot of statues of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. They seem important as they have lights shining on them and each statue has part of them painted in gold.

In the United Reformed one thing completely different to the Catholic Church is the church family tree. It has pictures of all members of St Andrews's church. This indicates a close family. This tree might be done in other United Reformed Churches to make each worshipper feel part of a 'family'. In St Benedict's church anyone can go to a service whenever they like and it seems like a more open church, which indicates how big and widespread the Catholic religion really is in the world.

  • Explain the significance of these features and furnishings for the worshipper and how they reflect and assist belief.

The look of the Catholic Church to the United Reformed Church is different in many ways. Even though they both have many similar features for example the altar, font they all look different.

St Benedicts Church is very ornate and over the top. This reflects Catholic beliefs. They believe that the beautiful things inside a church indicate the importance of God. He is a very important part of religion and so he should be shown that he is important by having lots of ornate features.

On the outside of St Benedicts there are two spires, which are pointing to the sky, which means they are pointing to God. The outside is over the top and large indicating the importance of the church. It has a lot of detail around the door and an obvious stain glass window.

In the United Reformed Church it is much simpler. They believe that if a church has great opulence then it will get in the way of worship. When a church is plain and there are no over the top features for example stain glass windows, and icons a Christian is able to focus on God and God alone instead of being distracted by all the beautiful features inside the Church. On the outside of the Church there is one spire which like the Catholic Church is pointing to God. It is large however not over the top like the Catholic Church.

When you enter both Churches the first important feature you come to is the font. They are both at the front of the church, as they both believe the same thing. It is near the entrance of the church as it shows that you are entering Christianity. You are starting the journey of Christianity. The fonts are both an eight-sided receptacle which holds holy water that is used to baptise infants in. Babies are young and when baptised they begin the journey of Christianity. In the United Reformed Church the font is not in the main part of the church but instead near the main church door, which is in the centre of the church. In the centre this is where worshippers can talk and there are various groups held in the centre.

The font in St Benedicts is very opulent and large reflecting the belief that God is important so that is shown through the features of the church.

In St Andrews's church you then come to St Andrews church family. Full of pictures of all the worshippers at the church. It feels very much like a close community. This aspect of the United Reformed Church is important for them and indicates everyone having a close relationship with all worshippers.

In both cases you then come to chairs or pews. In the United Reformed Church the chairs are in a circular shape which could reflect again the belief of a close knit community inside the church. In the Catholic Church however the pews are in two straight lines, which seems very formal and indicates the importance of the Bishop in the church. All worshippers look onto the main leader of the church as being higher up than they are.

At the end of St Benedicts church there is a large altar. There are a few steps up to the altar signifying that it is the most important object in the church. It is also in the centre of the church and so when you first walk into the church you can clearly see it. There is a cross on it as this is a very important symbol for all Christians.

The altar is used for Holy Communion a very important service for Catholics. The altar use to be used to sacrifice animals, however this isn't allowed nowadays and instead the sacrification is symbolised by the breaking of bread which represents the body of Jesus and the drinking of wine which represents the drinking of Jesus' blood. This sacrification is called the Holy Communion or Eucharist.

By having this service Catholics are able to remember the sacrifice that Jesus made. Some also believe in transubstantiation. This means that they think a change takes place in the bread and wine to make it Christ's body and blood.

In the United Reformed Church the altar doesn't stand out as much as in the Catholic Church. It is at the back of the church in the centre between two reading desks. It has like the altar in the Catholic Church a cross in the centre of it. In the United Reformed church they still take Holy Communion a they believe it is a symbol that Jesus told people to use in worship. The bread and wine are not a reoffering of his sacrifice and they do not make such a big deal about the ceremony as in a Catholic Church. The United Reformed Church believes that Jesus is present in prayer, the Eucharist, the blessings and in the sharing of the bread and wine. However they believe that he is not specifically present in the bread and wine.

In St Benedicts the lectern is simple and gold. It is there to support the Bible. It also acts as a reading desk as this is where Priests would read from the Bible. It doesn't seem like a key feature.

In the United Reformed church the lectern acts like in the Catholic Church as more of a reading desk. It is similar to the altar, wooden with a cross in the centre of it.

Neither of the lecterns are like a traditional lectern which I would have expected inside the Catholic church. A traditional lectern is of an eagle over a gold ball. The eagle symbolises John the gospel and all the gospels are the word of God. The gold ball represents the world and God going to every corner of the world. However as I said the lecterns in both church act more as a reading desk not a place where the Bible rests.

The stain-glass windows in the Catholic Church are very detailed. They have images on them depicting Biblical stories. The importance of God for Catholics is reflected through the pieces. It is behind the altar, which symbolises the importance of it and draws attention towards the altar. Stain- glass is also inside the church to offer to God the highest expression of worship, and to create a sense of awe. When you enter the church you instantly notice the large piece of stain glass at the back of the church.

In St Andrews Church the stain-glass windows are simpler so that the opulence will not distract worshipping Christians, they can focus entirely on God. A large piece of stain glass is not behind the altar inside the church but instead a small piece, which does however still draw attention to the altar.

There are many features inside the Catholic church that are not in the United Reformed Church. A very important feature for Catholics is the crucifix. In St Benedicts Jesus on the cross is hung at the back in the centre of the church over the altar, symbolising his importance. By having the crucifix over the altar it symbolises the sacrifice Jesus made and as the service of Holy Communion remembering Jesus' last supper takes place on the altar it is appropriate to have Jesus on the cross above it.

The cross has a dead carving of Jesus on it to help people remember his suffering. This can help assist Catholics when they are worshipping.

There are initials INRI above Jesus' head, which stands for 'Jesus of Nazareth, king of Jews' in Latin.

The crucifix reflects how much Jesus did for his religion and how much he suffered.

There are also various plaques, which tell the story of the crucifixion as it is such an important part of the religion. On the plaques Jesus is painted gold symbolising his importance.

In St Benedicts and most Catholic churches there are confession booths. Here Christians can confess their sins in complete confidence to a priest. The priest can try and help them by giving them information. The booths are very simple and do not stand out. The priest and person confessing are in two separate booths that have a mesh between so you cannot see the confessor's face but can still hear them. The booths look simple and are to the side of the church because here people are confessing sins so it shouldn't really stand out. Other denominations of Christianity do not have booths. Catholic feel it is important if they have done a bad deed they should be forgiven by their religion.

In St Benedicts there are many statues of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. As they are important figures in Christianity having statues of them shows this. Each part of their body is painted in gold to symbolise their importance to the religion. Christians are able to feel closer to God through the statues. Mary is important as she is seen as the model for Christian living, because she co-operated fully with God's will.

The statues act as an external stimulus to help them to pray. The stimuli help worshippers focus the mind by acting as a constant reminder and point of reference.

Inside St Benedicts there is also a scene of the birth of Jesus again a very important part of Christianity. By looking at the scene Nativity scene worshippers can be helped to think about the life of Jesus and the beginning of Christianity.

It seems that inside the Catholic Church there are a lot more features for example the crucifix and statues which help assist a worshipper. Inside the United Reformed Church features are a lot simpler as they believe worshippers can get distracted by elaborate items for example the stain-glass. They feel worshippers should be stimulated by their minds not things around them. They also believe highly of a community like spirit and having a family tree of all the members help it feel like a community.

Both churches have many similar features however they look incredibly different even though the two churches are part of the same religion. They can also believe in dissimilar things, for example the importance of Holy Communion. In the end however they both believe in God and the importance of Jesus.

  • 'You do not need to go to a place of public worship to be a Christian.' Do you agree? Give reasons to support your answer and show that you have thought about different points of view.

I believe that you do not need to go to a public place of worship to be a Christian. To be a Christian you do not need ornate items for example stain-glass, high ceilings and elaborate artwork to help stimulate you for example in a Catholic Church. Pictures from St Benedicts church of statues of Mary and Joseph and beautiful stain-glass windows shouldn't be the reason why you might go to a public place of worship.

As long as a Christian has a close connection with God they do not need to be in a public place of worship.

Also as long as a Christian has a bible at home then they can read passages from it and pray regularly to be able to feel like you are a Christian and to be able to talk to God. By reading the Bible Christians can remember important stories of Christianity for example many of Jesus' healing stories.

You are even able to have a few other Christians around in the comfort of your own home to read passages from the bible and pray together. It would feel rather like the Quaker group, relaxed and able to do what they like.

Instead of having elaborate objects around to assist a Christian, which they will get in a church, they are able to use rosary beads to assist when praying if they need something to help them. Then can have the cross next to them, as it is an important symbol of Christianity. If you are Catholic you can have a crucifix close by to remember the suffering Jesus had to go through for his religion. When praying Christians want to feel comfortable which they cannot always feel if in a church. As its only you and God no one else it can sometimes be off putting if there are others around for example in a church.

Some Christian's might feel that they have to go to a place of public worship to be a Christian. However one reason for going to a church is to talk to other Christians and it can be more like a central meeting place. If you want to worship alone then you can at home and many do this. You can be the most devout Christian and not go to a church. You only need to know that you are a proper Christian not proving to anyone else that you are.

I also disagree to this statement to a certain extent. By having omate items and symbolic items for example the altar around you, worshippers are able to feel more like a Christian and can also pray more easily.

However I also believe that if you don't ever go to a public place of worship then how can you be a Christian. By being in a church Christians are in a holy place the centre of Christianity. Where as at home it can feel not particularly religious and you are not able to feel very much like a Christian. In a church it is like being with the presence of Christ, Christians are able to feel more spiritual.

In a Church you are able to almost sense God. The features in the church around you can stimulate your mind and help you worship. For example having the altar there when worshipping you can remember the importance of sacrifice and remember Jesus.

In a Catholic Church you are able to remember the suffering Jesus went through by having a large crucifix. In St Benedicts Church there are even plaques which tell the story of the crucifixion for worshippers to remember.

You are only able to do special services like Holy communion and Baptism in a church without doing these special services it seems almost impossible to feel like a Christian. These services are particularly important. Being baptised as an infant you start the journey of Christianity. In some worshipper eyes if not baptised as an infant you can not be called a Christian or be part of the religion. However once baptised to still be called a Christian you have to attend church. When baptised as an infant it is quite easy to just walk away and say you're a Christian to others because you have been blessed by the holy water.

Holy Communion another important service especially for Catholics. You are unable to have a service of Holy Communion outside the church, Catholics have to take part in some Eucharist services, as they are important to Christianity. Taking part by having the bread and wine is special and spiritual and can only be done inside a church.

Christians are able to feel safe and at peace in a church. Even though it is a public place of worship individually you are able to get away from the rest of the world. If Christians have troubles at home they can go to a church to be with God and even talk to a minister of the church about problems they might be facing. In a Catholic Church for example you are able to confess your sins in complete confidence to a priest of the church. It is sometimes easier to talk to someone who you do not know like a fellow Christian as they are not able to judge you from past times; they only judge you on the present. You are not able to do this with a person close to you.

One main and what seems an obvious point of not going to a public place of worship is that if you don't go it seems hard to feel like one. If someone asks what religion you are you are not able say you are a Christian because you might have been baptised as an infant or because you live in England and think of the main English religion as being Christianity. You personally have to get a connection with God and your religious community by going to a local church. By visiting a church at least once or twice at the beginning can help a Christian feel much more like one. Finally I believe that you do need to go to a public place of worship to be able to feel like a Christian as if you do not go then I think its hard to feel like one.

Diary of Visits: 23rd October I visited St Benedicts Catholic Church and St Andrews United reformed Church.

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Overview of the R. S. Curriculum. (2023, May 17). Retrieved from https://phdessay.com/overview-of-the-r-s-curriculum/

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