The culture, observations and an overview of the activity
As a Muslim, who has never gained any interest in Christianity, I was involved in an observation and an interview in regards to the Christian culture. In this regards, I explored the Christianity cultural service of baptism for the participant observation. The event took place in the morning. During the church service, the young ones were baptized at a very tender age and the majority of these children never understood what was happening. As a result, some made loud cries but their guardians were all there to sooth them. For the particular service, baptism was specifically the event of interest. Every child had a guardian figure who oversaw the child through the various parts of the event. During the ceremony, the children wore baptismal clothing that was white generally worn symbolizing newness and freshness of the person being baptized. From the observation, every child who was to be baptized had a guardian of the same sex. On the altar, the priest poured water on the child’s forehead, applied holy oil on their chest and forehead, and lit candles for them. The oil used for baptism was olive oil for strengthening and preparing the child for the fight ahead. The baptismal candle was a sign of a new life that symbolized the light of Christ in the child. The smell of the ordeal is spiritualized in baptism and a special plant was burned producing a nice aroma. According to the Christian culture, this is a cardinal rite of passage that every Christian convert has to undergo through to become a member of the church society and has a strong social and cultural meaning. After the ordeal, each guardian asked to sign the baptismal register and was given a baptism certificate that was a sign that the child and the parent had become part of the particular society.
The informant and why he was interviewed
The informant used for my interview was a church elder whom I was directed to by a member of the church. The church elder proved to be a good source of the informant as he had been a member of the church for 41 years thus was very knowledgeable. He informed me that he became a member of the church when he was 24 years old and was involved in leadership positions thus; he was a vital source of information to take part in the observation.
Questions, answers, and knowledge gained
Some of the questions that I asked was the significant of the event, why it had to occur to the children when they were so young, why the activity was structured the way it was, the expectations of the participants and whether the activity provides any underlying structures and beliefs to the associated culture. According to the explanation that I received, baptism from the Christian culture is considered as a holy gift. From the Christian perspective in their social-cultural context, it is a rite of passage or a life crisis ceremony. Every child in the tender age has an obligation of undergoing baptism as it serves important functions in the lifecycle of the community and the individual. One of the reasons is for the incorporation of the new child to be a member of the church social group and be identified with it. Another purpose of the ceremony is the initiation of the infant’s parents into their new social status i.e. “being parents”. The other reason is the provision of a ceremonial gathering for relatives and close friends to affirm the infant and guardians acceptance of taking responsibility for the child. Thus, these beliefs are attached and associated with the event
Significance and meaning of the event from an anthropological perspective
Participant observation involves the observer participating in on-going activities while recording the observations., the observer takes up some roles in the action. In ethnography, the researcher observes or interacts with the participants in the real-life environment. When using participant observation, the participants behave as they normally do, which leads to valid evidence. The participants’ viewpoint is used rather than that of the researcher and deep insights about the social interaction are gained. Ethnography is a more powerful tool compared to participant observation in that the researcher can easily identify as well analyze any unexpected issues that might be missed when using participant observation. In addition, the researcher acquires a faithful and detailed representation of the interviewee’s attitudes and behaviors. If the researcher stays for a long period, he can gain a vivid picture of the participants.
Participant observation is limited to that small groups are studied, and, therefore, there is no representativeness. The method cannot be repeated or checked for reliability. Third, the researcher uses a long period to gather very little information. The researcher has a high chance of being biased, and the presence of the researcher can change the group’s behavior.