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How to Be a Perfect Stranger: The Essential Religious Etiquette Handbook, Fourth Edition Paperback – January 1, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-1594731402 ISBN-10: 1594731403 Edition: 4th

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How to Be a Perfect Stranger: The Essential Religious Etiquette Handbook, Fourth Edition + The Perfect Stranger's Guide to Funerals and Grieving Practices: A Guide to Etiquette in Other People's Religious Ceremonies + Handbook for Chaplains: Comfort My People
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Product Details

  • Series: Perfect Stranger
  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: SkyLight Paths; 4 edition (January 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594731403
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594731402
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #563,419 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

This easy-to-use fourth edition is updated and revised with the latest membership statistics on the various faith traditions, an expanded glossary of religious terms and an all new section on popular religious symbols. It also includes the "Everything You Need to Know Before You Go" checklist.

In today's diverse North American society we often are invited--through family, friends or business contacts--to religious ceremonies or services that are not of our own tradition or faith. Entering this unfamiliar atmosphere can be awkward....
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. Based on information obtained directly from each of the religions and denominations, this indispensable handbook helps the well-meaning guest of any other faith to feel comfortable, participate to the fullest extent possible and avoid violating anyone's religious principles or hurting their feelings.

This book helps turn the "strange" into the less confusing (but not the ordinary). Most of all, it enables the invited "stranger" to truly appreciate the experience, and enrich their own spiritual understanding.

About the 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.



Arthur J. Magida is a freelance editor and author.

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36 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Harold McFarland HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on May 6, 2003
Format: Paperback
"How to Be a Perfect Stranger" is the ultimate reference on how to act and what to expect when attending a religious service at any of the most common religions in America. Would you know what to do if a Hindu invited you to their infant's naming ceremony? What if a Christian Scientist family had a death in the family and you were invited to the funeral? Or what if you were invited to a Latter Day Saint, African American Methodist Episcopal, Lutheran, or Mennonite service, would you know the appropriate dress and order of service? All these questions and more are answered in this book.
The section on each faith has a short history of the faith, appropriate dress for service, ritual objects used in the service, parts of the sanctuary, appropriate conduct during the service, what to expect after the service, a section on dogma and ideology, celebrated holy days and festivals, various ceremonies related to the life cycle (births, marriage, initiation, funerals, mourning) and what to expect at those ceremonies. If you are seeking understanding of others of a different faith then this is an important place to start.
Faiths examined include African American Methodist Churches, Assemblies of God, Baha'i, Baptist, Buddhist, Christian Church, Christian Science, Churches of Christ, Episcopalian and Anglican, Hindu, Islam, Jehovah's Witness, Jewish, Lutheran, Mennonite/Amish, Methodist, Mormon (Latter Day Saints), Native American/First Nations, Orthodox Churches, Pentecostal Church of God, Presbyterian, Quaker (Religious Society of Friends), Reformed Church in America/Canada, Roman Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, Sikh, Unitarian Universalist, United Church of Canada, and United Church of Christ.
Filled with clear information that will allow anyone to feel perfectly comfortable visiting any one of these faiths whether for curiosity, courtesy, or whatever reason, it is a very highly recommended read that should be on the shelf of anyone sensitive to the faiths of others.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Dai-keag-ity on October 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
Not only is this an invaluable reference book that provides reassuring guidance on how to act, what to wear, what to expect from the liturgical services of virtually all world religions, it also gives a concise, handy detailing of exactly what each of the religions believes in, teaches, and how and when it got its start. Handy for when you're about to attend a wedding or other life-cycle event within a faith with which you're unfamiliar, or if you're simply going to be a guest at a religion's worship service. A well-written, informative study done in plain, everyday language.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Kaeli Vandertulip on January 20, 2008
Format: Paperback
A neighbor invites you to a Seder; what should you bring? Your Hindi coworkers are getting married; what's an appropriate wedding present? You're visiting a new church with family; how much should you put in the offering plate? The mosque in your neighborhood is having an open house during Ramadan; is it OK to wear a crucifix?

All these mundane issues related with being a polite and gracious visitor in other people's homes and places of worship are covered in this handy reference book. When my son was very young, my husband and I agreed he could visit any church he liked, as long as I accomanied him. I got this book so that, no matter what kind of church we attend, we are always respectful of the worshippers there. It turned out to be useful for more than that, though, because they do not just explain the standard worship services. Customs for birth initiations (infant baptisms, naming ritutals), coming of age initiations (bar mitzvahs and adult baptism), weddings, funerals, and interments are all presented to help a visitor understand his hosts better.

Various Christian denominations and non-Christian faiths are presented, along with the basic tenets of their faiths (this is NOT intended to be a primer on theology, just a heads-up on what to expect), proper dress code for any kind of service, and an understanding of what constitutes polite in various religions. The authors are sensitive both to the guests and the hosts in their descriptions of everything from marriage customs and wedding ceremonies to whether or not a woman's hem needs to fall below her knees. Concepts about why these customs exist are not presented, so there is no judgment even implied about what is an acceptable custom.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By T. Stephenson on March 29, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very useful reference to be used over and over as our world becomes smaller. It just isn't sensitive to assume that other people's religious practices are the same as your own. This book helps you to understand what to do when you come into contact with the diversity of religions and cultures that mark postmodern society.
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Format: Paperback
Deftly edited by Stuart M. Matlins and Arthur J. Magida, How To Be A Perfect Stranger: The Essential Religious Etiquette Handbook is an outstanding compendium and documentation of what is ultimately the religions of the world. Inclusive of a great detailing of the African American Methodist Churches, Assemblies of God, Bahai, Baptist, Buddhist, Christian Church, Christian Science, Churches of Christ, Episcopalian and Anglican, Hindu, Islam, Jehovah's Witnesses, Jewish, Lutheran, Mennonite/Amish, Methodist, Mormon, Native American/First Nations, Orthodox Churches, Penticostal Church of God, Presbyterian, Quaker, Reformed Church in America/Canada, Roman Catholic, Seventh-day Adventist, Sikh, Unitarian Universalist, United Church of Canada, and the United Church of Christ, How To Be A Perfect Stranger acts as a reference and well researched guide to a significant understanding of many of today's religions and their progression from historical backgrounds. How To Be A Perfect Stranger is very strongly recommended to all students of religion, those searching for a religion which may righteously favor their beliefs, or those merely seeking a greater understanding of societal religious perspectives.
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