Analyzing Beyond What Can be Easily Seen
It’s unimaginable the amount of information that the human brain processes without the individual even knowing. Color patterns, text size, and pictures are just a few of the many factors that subconsciously influence what the individual thinks of a certain think. While he or she doesn’t realize, the brain registers what is being seen, felt, smelled, etc. and puts it in perspective of previous memories, and after all that is done the individual has an opinion of whatever is in question. This process takes fractions of a second, and is done thousands, if not millions of times per day by every single person. But this is only the first part of judgement. The second part, and arguably the more important one has to do with words. Humans are constantly reading, and this leads them to have a wide range of rhetoric. What does this mean? Since rhetoric means, in summary, the study of effective speaking and writing, it makes sense that humans have this well developed. Society interacts with the English language in several different ways, and in every situation the rhetoric present is different. A good example would be comparing a text message to a formal email. We are constantly reading things and subconsciously cross-referencing and comparing it to things we’ve read or heard already.
Now, why is this important? The Community House Church, which was the location I chose for this project, provided a good opportunity to analyze the psychological and the cognitive aspects of their website. Analyzing things and formulating opinions is inherent to the human being, and thus when creating something companies and organizations should think carefully about what they want their customers to perceive. And most do. This wasn’t the case, however, for the Community House Church. When looking at their website, it is easier to analyze what’s not there than what is. The message conveyed to the public is one of simplicity, lacking detail and being straight to the point about what they want the reader to know. Throughout this essay, I will be relying heavily on rhetorical analysis of elements pertaining the Church in order to further explore the meaning behind the simplicity that was identified from the beginning.
The first thing that comes to mind when looking at the home page of the website is the way it is setup. One of the canons of rhetoric is the arrangement of words, and it can be easily compared to how this home page is displayed. A simple paragraph, giving a brief overview of the church is the only text present, aside from the menus. When one actually analyzes the meaning behind the agglomeration of words forming that paragraph, it is possible to conclude that it was written for the general public. To be more specific: the paragraph seems to have been written without a specific audience in mind, and therefore the writing used is very simple and easy to understand. This choice of writing initially sounds plain, but it is actually brilliant since it can inform almost any audience.
The same simplistic writing resonates throughout the entire website, which shows consistency in form and style. It is, however, interesting to note that this style does not help at all in luring more people to their church. The writing present in the website is not persuasive nor does it try to be at any point. It was also interesting to see how the simplicity in their writing transcends to their preachings. The video below (click on image for link) was taken at one of the services held by the Community House Church. While I couldn’t identify the song they were singing, the lyrics of the song are very simple. It is extremely different than what is sung at traditional Catholic churches, such as the latin songs and others sang by the choir.
Going back to the first image on this essay, it is important to note the colors used as the theme of the website. The color scheme is very neutral, combining a gradient light blue that eventually fades into white. Choosing this color pattern makes sense because it incites tranquility. Had they chosen red or other stronger, more vibrant colors, they would’ve deviated from the main message of their community. Lighter and less vibrant colors subconsciously make the brain think about peaceful and pleasant things, the kind of thoughts a church would want their members or prospective members to have. These colors were chosen by design. The Community House Church accepts people from different Christian backgrounds. It is not surprising that the blue they chose is so close to the blue used by the United Nations, which is seen as a sign of peace and cohesion.
Another element that is very perceptible to the viewer is the lack of images in the website. Throughout the entire website, only one image is displayed (See image below).
The image is rather dull and uninviting, which makes the viewer question why it was chosen to be the only one used. Images are usually used for persuasive appeals such as logos, pathos, and ethos. However, the picture makes no positive appeal. Having only one image is a risk because the viewer will make up their mind based on only one piece of evidence. In this image, for example, every single community member is white. This could lead someone to question their race and diversity acceptance, even though the website states they’re open to all the public. This is even more interesting when taking into consideration the diversity of Adams Morgan. The neighborhood is known for its desegregation and inclusion projects, and currently is the most diverse one in DC. These facts make the church seem out of place. Why would it be destined to only white people if it is located in the most diverse neighborhood in the city?
On top of this, the image represents one type of their meetings, which is for kids. The picture isn’t of their main service, and it raises the question as to why they chose not to include a representation of their main “product”. This is more of a marketing analysis, but the point is that they do very little to try to impress whoever is accessing their website. The most striking part, however, is how they chose to display their contact information. In their “Contact Us” page, they state: “please allow a few days for a response”. This is not only terrible for their own marketing, but it also puts them at a disadvantage when compared to other churches. Most of them have social media accounts, and are very responsive to emails and calls. Aside from the marketing aspect, this exemplifies how to church is run. It sounds very laid back and casual. It is interesting to analyze how the form, arrangement, and style of a simple sentence can inform the reader a lot about the organization. In this case, it helps the reader understand that the Community House Church isn’t a traditional Catholic church, and therefore it is not as conservative and strict.
Moving back to the writing present on the website, there isn’t much of an appeal to the public. There’s no praising or speaking highly of the community on the website, it is just there to inform the viewer of their purpose, the services they offer and the meeting times. It is limited to describing objectively the Church. The text below was taken directly from the website:
Small groups of 4-8 people meet regularly to get to know each other better. The format of the small group is flexible and decided by the members of each group. Speak to a regular attender if you are interested in joining a small group. (Community House Church)
The church relies more on a word of mouth advertising, rather than advertising through their official website. It is interesting to note that they don’t specify who to talk to. There isn’t an appeal to ethos, for example. The church doesn’t have one person that represents their public image. This shows that they have a strong relationship with their members, since they trust any one of them to inform newcomers about the proceedings of the church. Also, the text informs the reader about how the church functions. Aside from the worship services, the church offers small group meetings and Sunday School for children. Again, this shows the simplicity that whoever developed the website was aiming for, using limited text and being straight to the point.
The meetings of the church are held in the building shown in the picture above. Once a week the church rents out rooms at Mary’s Center, where they hold their infant and adult congregations. The organization was founded in the 20th century and works to provide medical help to those in need. While its initial purpose was to help latino females with medical aid, Mary’s Center has expanded and today serves thousands, if not millions, of people in the DC area (Mary’s Center). Their public diversified with time, just like the neighborhood of Adams Morgan, and today their general public is almost evenly split between multiple backgrounds. Even though there could be a strong connection between the church and the health center, both fail to establish it. The church mentions its meetings are located in Mary’s Center, but the church isn’t even mentioned in maryscenter.org.
The Community House Church isn’t the biggest nor the only church in the Adams Morgan area. A quick search in the yellow pages reveals that there are at least five big churches around the area (Religious Organizations Adams Morgan). This search doesn’t take into considerations small communities such as the Community House Church. According to Find The Home, Adams Morgan has 82% more religious organizations than average for DC neighborhoods, with the majority being Catholic or Baptist (Adams Morgan). The neighborhood that was once divided because of race is now fairly split on religious affiliation. This divide is interesting when put into the scenario of the Community House Church, since they claim to be non-denominational (Community House Church). According to Find The Home, the church is the only official non-denominational gathering in the Adams Morgan area. Again, this could be beneficial to the community. The Huffington Post recently came out with an article stating that millennials are the least religious generation yet due to the focus on individualism. Millennials are seeking betterment for their own lives, and if it takes changing religions or having no faith at all to achieve that they won’t hesitate to do so (Cooper-White). This is why a broad church with a wide acceptance of beliefs such as the Community House Church is important. It is a more appealing place to the younger generations, a place with fewer do’s and don’ts and more acceptance.
Zooming out a little bit and taking a look at Adams Morgan as a whole is very important when analyzing the Community House Church. In addition to the current diversified population, the neighborhood council hopes to further develop social projects that include and diversify its population. In their Adams Morgan Community Report, the council made projections for the future by analyzing current population trends, and they’re looking forward to hosting events such as the Cultural Music Festival during the summer (Envision Adams Morgan Phase 1 Report). Therefore, the commonplace of Adams Morgan will look more and more diverse over time. This is a positive thing for the Church, since their community is highly inclusive and accepting of different individuals.
By analyzing the rhetoric of a piece of writing and taking into context the commonplace in which such was written, it is possible to generate an opinion about it. In the case of the Community House Church, both the rhetorical analysis and the commonplace have been analyzed in the preceding pages. By analyzing their use of -or lack of- persuasive appeals, such as logos, pathos, and ethos, and using the canons of rhetoric to better understand the text they formulated, the main behind their writing can be identified. Rhetorical analysis could be compared to a chemical compound in a way. While one may see only the compound, rhetorical analysis takes into consideration what was put in there. What elements were combined to make that chemical? In writing, what style, arrangement, persuasive appeal, etc. were used to compose the text? All this together with the commonplace of Adams Morgan have helped shape this analysis of the Community House Church. The conclusion to be drawn from this information will vary from reader to reader, as many factors influence how one perceives information. The point isn’t to form an opinion, but to start a conversation by providing the reader with information about the Church and how it is in constant connection with its topoi. Realizing that everything coexists is the first step to understanding that there is much more than a single point of view, and that to further gain knowledge about a topic a conversation has to exist.
“Adams Morgan.” Find The Home. Graphiq, n.d. Web. 9 Mar. 2017.
Adams Morgan Timeline. “Adams Morgan Timeline.” Adams Morgan Timeline, Tiki Toki, www.tiki-toki.com/timeline/entry/69662/Adams-Morgan-Timeline/#vars!date=2012-12-03_10:03:42! Accessed 1 May 2017.
“Community House Church.” Communityhousechurch.org. Free Website Templates, n.d. Web. 2 Mar. 2017.
Cooper-White, Macrina. “Millennials Are The Least Religious Generation Yet, And Here’s The Surprising Reason Why.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/05/27/millennials-less-religious_n_7452998.html. 27 May 2015. Web. 3 Mar. 2017.
“Envision Adams Morgan Phase 1 Report” Scribd, Envision Adams Morgan, www.scribd.com/document/181054803/Envision-Adams-Morgan-Phase-1-Report-October-2013-pdf. Accessed 1 May 2017.
“Mary’s Center.” Mary’s Center. N.p., n.d. maryscenter.org. Web. 7 Mar. 2017.
“Religious Organizations Adams Morgan.” YellowPages. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Mar. 2017.