Cover image for How to be a perfect stranger : a guide to etiquette in other people's religious ceremonies
How to be a perfect stranger : a guide to etiquette in other people's religious ceremonies
Magida, Arthur J.
First quality paperback edition, revised and expanded.
Publication Information:
Woodstock, Vt. : SkyLight Paths Pub., [1999]

Physical Description:
2 volumes ; 23 cm
General Note:
"Walking together, finding the way."

"For people of all faiths, all backgrounds"--p. [4] of cover.

Vol. 2 : edited by Stuart M. Matlins & Arthur J. Magida.
v. 1. Assemblies of God -- Baptist -- Buddhist -- The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) -- Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist) -- Churches of Christ -- Episcopalian and Anglican -- Greek Orthodox -- Hindu -- Islam -- Jehovah's Witnesses -- Jewish -- Lutheran -- Methodist -- Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) -- Presbyterian -- Quaker (Religious Society of Friends) -- Roman Catholic -- Seventh-day Adventist -- United Church of Canada -- United Church of Christ -- Glossary -- Calendar of religious holidays and festivals -- v. 2. African American Methodist Churches -- Bahaí -- Christian and Missionary Alliance -- The Christian Congregation -- Church of the Brethren -- Church of the Nazarene -- Evangelical Free Church -- International Church of the Foursquare Gospel -- International Pentecostal Holiness Church -- Mennonite/Amish -- Native American/First Nations -- Orthodox churches -- Pentecostal Church of God -- Reformed Church in America/Canada -- Sikh -- Unitarian Universalist -- Wesleyan -- Glossary -- Calendar of religious holidays and festivals.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BJ2010 .H68 1999 V.1 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
BJ2010 .H68 1999 V.2 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
BJ2010 .H68 1999 V.1 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



These easy-to-use guidebooks help the well-meaning guest of any other faith feel at ease, participate to the fullest extent possible, and avoid violating anyone's religious principles or hurting their feelings. Not a guide to theology. Not presented from the perspective of any particular faith.

What will happen? What do I do? What do I wear? What do I say? When is it OK to leave? What should I avoid doing, wearing, or saying? What are their basic beliefs? Should I bring a gift? These are just a few of the basic, very practical questions answered in How to Be a Perfect Stranger, Vol 1 and 2, two books that belong in every living room, library, and office. Originally published in hardcover by Jewish Lights Publishing, these updated and expanded trade paperback editions now include information for the Canadian branches of each faith, plus an added chapter on the largest Protestant denomination in Canada, The United Church of Canada.

VOL.1: How to Be a Perfect Stranger is based on information obtained from authorities of each religion. Assemblies of God; Baptist; Buddhist; The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ); Churches of Christ; Christian Science (Church of Christ, Scientist); Episcopalian and Anglican; Greek Orthodox; Hindu; Islam; Jehovah's Witnesses; Jewish; Lutheran; Methodist; Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints); Presbyterian; Quaker (Religious Society of Friends); Roman Catholic; Seventh-day Adventist; United Church of Canada; United Church of Christ.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

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. (Reviewed Feb. 15, 1996)

Library Journal Review

When the first editions of these two uniquely valuable volumes were published in hardcover in 1996 and 1997, respectively, they were enthusiastically receivedÄVolume 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.ÄMarcia G. Welsh, Guilford Free Lib., CT (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

These two volumes are updated and expanded from the award-winning and well-received first series of this set from Ben Franklin, first published in 1996 and '97. Total religions and denominations covered now number 38: 21 for volume 1, which covers larger religions with memberships in the millions (Baptist, Buddhist, Jewish, Methodist, Roman Catholic), and 17 for volume 2, which covers faiths with a smaller membership (Baha'i, Mennonite/Amish, Orthodox Churches, Native American/First Nations). Revision and expansion consists of the addition of Canadian branches of the faiths and the updating of the calendar of religious holidays and festivals. Information for guests regarding what to expect at religious services includes details such as what to wear, whether flash photography is permitted, how to address the clergy, whether it is impolite not to eat, and whether or not one may politely leave early. The information was obtained from questionnaires completed by the national office of the religion or by interviews with clergy. The section on Native American religions deviates from the standard question-and-answer format and includes the advice that if you are not invited to a ceremony you should not attend. This raises the question of whether uninvited guests should ever attend religious services of faiths not their own, which is not directly addressed in the other entries. Future volumes could be improved by more extensive coverage of African American religions and services. Descriptions of core beliefs and short bibliographies are given in this practical reference guide, written for general readers rather than scholarly researchers. M. Meola; Temple University