Though filled with the promise of happiness and cheer the holiday season can be a time of confusion and anxiety as well. When a friend or relative invites you to go with them to their house of worship at the holidays, or for a celebration at any time of the year, one may wonder; what do I do, how will “fit in,” how will I avoid giving offense? To help with some of these questions I bring to your attention a reference to a book written in 1996. Here is a description of the book, which should be able to guide us through most but not all religious encounters. It was cited in an interesting web site: Religion: The Social Context.* I found the quote below most informative.
“Every religious group has norms about behavior before, during, and after worship services. Established religious groups have somewhat standardized expectations that any visitor ought to try to meet. A useful guide is How to Be a Perfect Stranger: A Guide to Etiquette in Other People’s Religious Ceremonies (edited by A. J. Magida, Jewish Lights Publishing, Woodstock, Vermont, 1996). It contains a little background about the religion and its worship, recommended clothing (e.g., if head covering is required, whether jewelry is okay, how dressed up must one be), how the sanctuary is arranged, where guests should sit, when not to enter, in which services guests may participate, and which services are for members only. The guide includes Buddhist, Christian Science, Greek Orthodox, Hindu, Islam, Jewish, Mormon, Roman Catholic, and Quaker worship, as well as several mainline, pentecostal, and other Protestant forms of worship. If the group you plan to visit is not described, you might ask friends who are from that tradition to tell you what to expect. Most groups also welcome advance inquiries from prospective visitors; you should find out (minimally) when to arrive, how to dress appropriately, and where visitors should sit or stand. Usually they will anticipate any other preparations you ought to know about and welcome the chance to tell you in advance.”*