Carrying out this particular anthropological study has been -- to be a bit vague for the moment -- interesting for me. Perhaps because it hits so close to home. Not only is it research done on my campus, but it focuses specifically on my peers. And not only does it concern fellow students, but it looks at the very group of students with which I share the same religious beliefs (worldviews) and therefore, to some extent, lifestyles as well. I know of all the current events in the UR Christian community. I understand the lingo these Christian students use. I speak the same "language" (not just verbal) that many of these students do. In fact, I have heard many of their stories even before this research project. I am, in many ways, as much an insider as a Christian student can be on this campus.
Admittedly, there were a few moments in which I wished I had undertaken a less personal project. Trying to take a step back and orient myself towards this subject with an academic and anthropologic perspective has naturally created its share of challenges, frustrations and uncertainties. However, I have found that the satisfaction, enjoyment and rewards have more than compensated, and in some cases, are the very results of many of the challenges.
In some ways I inevitably act as an advocate for these groups, not just presenting a perspective of who they are, but representing who they are. Thus the boundaries between my voice and their voices are not clear-cut. (As perhaps, in one sense, can be applied in to all anthropologists). And in fact, some of the final narratives included in my project contain autobiographical aspects and elements.
Consequently, being a part of a Christian fellowship myself during the past few years as a UR student has been one of the greatest experiences in my life. The fellow students in my fellowship are not just my friends; they are my brothers and sisters. They are, for me, a gift from God and a source of much support and encouragement. All the lessons I have learned through my involvement with the group are invaluable and relevant to the rest of my life. Thus, as many of the informants in this project will state, the Christian fellowship that I am a part of has not only become a priority, but it is the essence of my college experience.
This project has allowed for much self-reflection, rounding off my last semester as an undergraduate student with an integration of my academic and personal/spiritual life. That union has ultimately been -- contrary to the opinion of, it seems, many professors and students -- extremely valuable and useful.
Through my project, I hope to communicate the voices of the Christian students through the narratives, fellowship descriptions and even photographs. And I must inform any readers/viewers that, mixed somewhere in those voices, is also the one of this project's author: me.
-- Jeandarlae Buck