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Religious Buildings: Meeting Houses and Shrines

Certain religious groups refer to their gathering spot as a meeting house, which is commonplace in some organizations, such as the Quakers. In this article, you will learn about other religious organizations that use meeting houses for worship and other activities, as well as encounter different shrines from around the world.

Meeting House

Secular buildings also serve as a town or city hall with buildings that are used for religious meetings. In New England town in the United States, the meeting houses also saw voting take place and were where town offices were located. Early American Puritan congregations also used the meeting house format. Some people are still unclear what the difference is between a church and a meeting house for many non-conformist Christian denominations. A church is seen as a place that accommodates people that believe in Christ. A meeting house is the building where the church meets.

Some of the Christian denominations that use ‘meeting houses’ include the Religious Society of Friend (Quakers), the Mennonite Church, the Amish Church, some Unitarian congregations, and the Provisional Movement. Mormons are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which uses a building for their congregations to meet for weekly worship services, social gatherings and recreational events.

Shrine

Some people pay a visit to a place of worship that is dedicated or associated with a sacred person or saint. They could also pay homage to a deity, ancestor, local hero, martyr, or any other person that is worshipped. A shrine may also house sacred objects or relics pertaining to a specific religion. Some people come to make a votive offering at an altar, while others serve as a place to pray. Many religions around the world incorporate shrines into their methods of worship, including Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and Wiccans.

Shrines are found in churches, temples, cemeteries, on hillsides, and in a home. For example, the Chinese and people from Southeast Asia are known for making small household shrines. A typical shrine may use a small lamp and offerings that are kept daily by the shrine. There are also some restrictions and rules to follow when having a shrine in your home.  A shrine in the household of a Buddhist must be positioned on a shelf above the head. Shrines in Chinese households must stand directly on the floor.

Examples of shrines around the world include:

Shrine of the Bab , Located in Haifa, Israel, this structure is where you will find the remains of Bab, who was the founder of Babism. The shrine is found on Mount Carmel, where you will encounter a domed setting that has 12,000 fish-scale tiles of 50 varying shapes and sizes that were made in Portugal. The shrine offers a quiet place for people to pray and meditate. No ceremonies or religious services are held at the shrine.

Isonokami Shrine , In the hills of Tenri in Japan, there is a Shinto shrine that is one of the oldest in the country. It is here that several important artifacts are housed, such as the legendary sword called the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi and the seven-branched sword known as Nanatsusaya-no-Tachi, which was a gift to the Yamato king. Interestingly, the shrine is found at the end of the oldest road in Japan.