How to Be a Perfect Stranger: A Guide to Etiquette in Other People's Religious Ceremonies

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Overview

A straightforward guide to the rituals and celebrations of the major religions and denominations in America from the perspective of an interested guest of any other faith, How to Be a Perfect Stranger is based on information obtained from authorities of each religion. It is not a guide to theology, nor is it presented from the perspective of any particular faith. These easy-to-use guidebooks help the well-meaning guest of any other faith to feel at ease, participate to the fullest extent possible, and avoid ...

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Overview

A straightforward guide to the rituals and celebrations of the major religions and denominations in America from the perspective of an interested guest of any other faith, How to Be a Perfect Stranger is based on information obtained from authorities of each religion. It is not a guide to theology, nor is it presented from the perspective of any particular faith. These easy-to-use guidebooks help the well-meaning guest of any other faith to feel at ease, participate to the fullest extent possible, and avoid violating anyone's religious principles or hurting their feelings.

What will happen? What do I do? What do I wear? What do I say? What should I avoid doing, wearing, saying? What are their basic beliefs? Should I bring a gift? When is it okay to leave?

These are just a few of the basic, very practical questions answered in How to Be a Perfect Stranger, two books that belong in every living room, library and office.
"Finally, for those inclined to undertake their own spiritual journeys...tells visitors what to expect."
- The New York Times

"The things Miss Manners forgot to tell us about religion."
-The Los Angeles Times

"Highly recommended."
- Library Journal

"At last: Help has arrived for the religiously challenged."
-Denver Rocky Mountain News

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Editorial Reviews

New York Jewish Week
A cross between a Michelin guide to religious services and Miss Manners on God.
Library Journal
When the first editions of these two uniquely valuable volumes were published in hardcover in 1996 and 1997, respectively, they were enthusiastically received--Volume 1 won the Benjamin Franklin Award for best reference book of 1996. Covering the basic history and beliefs of every major and minor religion in the United States, including primary religious texts, religious services, special services (such as weddings and funerals), and observed holidays, the volumes provided detailed information for the "stranger" on practical topics such as where to sit, how to behave, how to dress, how to address clergy, and where to write for further information. The two volumes (Volume 1 covers the larger denominations in the United States, while Volume 2 covers smaller denominations such as African American Methodist, Mennonite/Amish, and Native American faiths) have now been completely updated and expanded to include information on the Canadian branches of each faith as well. While libraries that purchased the original volumes may not feel a need to update after only a few years, those in or close to Canada and those that did not purchase the original volumes will want to consider this most worthwhile set. Highly recommended.--Marcia G. Welsh, Guilford Free Lib., CT Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Many of us feel nervous when we receive an invitation to attend a wedding, bar mitzvah, funeral, or other religious ceremony in a denomination or religion with which we are unfamiliar. What will the ceremony be like? What should I wear? When do I kneel? When do I stand? In what should I not participate? What sort of gift is expected and when do I present it? After questioning religious centers and experts across the country, Magida and other staff of Jewish Lights have compiled this helpful and informative guide to the basic beliefs and ceremonial practices of the major Jewish and Protestant denominations, Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox, Mormon, Christian Scientist, Muslim, Hindu, and Buddhist religions. While general etiquette books usually cover some religious etiquette, none covers it as extensively or in as much detail as this. A welcome addition to public library collections. Highly recommended.-Marcia Welsh, Guilford Free Lib., Ct.
Zom Zoms
Guests at religious celebrations of faiths other than their own are often unaware of customs and rituals, appropriate dress, or gift-giving practices. The guidelines to religious etiquette in this book were developed to answer common questions asked by guests seeking to participate in the event yet attempting to avoid violating religious principles. Topics are addressed in a straightforward and nonjudgmental manner. The foreword was written by Sanford Cloud, president of the National Conference of Christians and Jews, who describes the effort as "a conscientious labor in the service of intergroup understanding. Each of the 20 chapters is devoted to a particular religion, including Baptist, Buddhist, Christian Science, Episcopalian, Greek Orthodox, Hindu, Islam, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jewish, Mormon, Quaker, and Roman Catholic. Extensive questionnaires seeking information about customs, rituals, and language of the faith were completed by the national office of each religion, or by a member of the clergy of that faith. The respondents are listed in the front of the book Each chapter begins with a brief introduction to the history and beliefs of the faith, followed by a series of standard questions that detail the basic service (appropriate dress, behavior during the service); holy days and festivals; life cycle events (birth, initiation, marriage, and funerals); and home celebrations. They answer such questions as Where do I sit? Are there any parts of the service in which a guest should participate? Is there a reception after the service? What does the ritual mean? Is it OK to leave early? Is flash photography or videotaping permitted? Will contributions be collected at the ceremony? Will the casket be open Representing a diversity of faiths, these guidelines to correct social behavior at religious ceremonies belong on public library shelves everywhere.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780382361807
  • Publisher: Silver Burdett Press
  • Publication date: 1/28/2001

Meet the Author

Arthur J. Magida is a freelance editor and author.

Stuart Matlins is founder, editor-in-chief and publisher of Jewish Lights Publishing and SkyLight Paths Publishing. Both imprints focus on religion and spirituality from a broad non-denominational perspective. He is author or editor of several books, including the best-selling How to Be a Perfect Stranger, 5th Edition: The Essential Religious Etiquette Handbook (SkyLight Paths); The Jewish Lights Spirituality Handbook: A Guide to Understanding, Exploring & Living a Spiritual Life (Jewish Lights); The Perfect Stranger's Guide to Wedding Ceremonies: A Guide to Etiquette in Other People's Religious Ceremonies; and The Perfect Stranger's Guide to Funerals and Grieving Practices: A Guide to Etiquette in Other People’s Religious Ceremonies (both SkyLight Paths).

Stuart was the 2006 recipient of the American Jewish Distinguished Service Award, an annual presentation of Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion. He was a member of the First Catholic/Jewish Lay Conference at the Vatican in October 2007, an event under the auspices of the Interreligious Information Center.

Among his many speaking appearances, Stuart has been the scholar-in-residence or guest lecturer at the National Funeral Director’s Association convention, Temple Isaiah (Palm Springs, CA), The Jewish Center of the Hamptons (East Hampton, NY), Temple Sholom (Plainfield, NJ), Israel Congregation (Manchester, NH) and at the annual gatherings of the Jewish Community Centers Association and the Jewish Outreach Institute. He also has been a featured speaker or panel member at many Book Expo America conventions, and at the biennial Festival of Faith and Writing at Calvin College, as well as at churches and other conferences.

Before publishing took over his life, he was a management consultant for over thirty years as a managing partner with Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc. and then heading his own consulting firm.

He is the co-founder of an innovative synagogue in Woodstock, Vermont, with his wife, Antoinette Matlins, and served as lay spiritual leader for nineteen of its twenty-one years. He has served for almost twenty years on the Board of Governors of Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, and was chair of the Board of Overseers of its New York School.

He is listed in Who’s Who in America.

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