Another popular question that my friends and family asked me as I told them about this project was –“How did you choose the places that you visited?”
In some ways, I believe, the places chose me. In the early part of the project there was a lot of random web searching (think search term: “church Chicago Saturday evening service”). Along the way I did find great sources like the pluralism project at Harvard University (www.pluralism.org) and www.beliefnet.com, that helped me to think about and become educated about the vast list of religions and worship traditions, These sources aided me in contacting people who could help me to find a service in whatever city I happened to be in at the time. Because I live in Chicago, the majority of the places of worship that I visited were in Chicago. But, because of personal travel I found myself visiting places of worship in Mexico, the UK, Nigeria, South Africa, and locations all over the United States.
As the project continued and I started venturing further out of my comfort zone, I found myself trying to be in a particular place of worship during one of their major celebrations or holy days. This means I was able to visit a synagogue for the Kol Nidre service, during Yom Kippur; a Naw-Rúz (New Year) service at the Bahai Temple in Wilmette, Illinois, a Wiccan festival (Mabon), and The Holy Day of Atonement services for the Nation of Islam. This was not a perfect plan of course – I missed out on attending a mosque during Ramadan because couldn’t get my schedule together, for example.
Honestly, sometimes I ended up at a place of worship because the service fit my schedule for that week. More than once I slept in and then had to be creative and find an afternoon or evening service. Additionally, I did have a rule that if someone invited me to their church, I had to go.
As the year went by I became much more intentional about visiting a diverse set of places of worship. So, I started with spirit, then I moved to intention. I may not have visited everywhere I wanted in 52 weeks, but this process did lead me to places where I had wonderful, varied experiences.