Friday, March 26, 2010

"Do I Kneel Or Do I Bow?"

I was delighted to receive a copy of this book by the Rev Akasha Lonsdale for review, as this is a topic which is becoming increasingly important in our modern multi-cultural society.

If you are invited to a service - christening/dedication, wedding, funeral etc- by a relative, colleague or friend who is from a different denomonation or from a non-Christian faith, it can raise a lot of questions.

What should you expect to happen?
What is the place of worship called and what does it look like?
How long will the service last?
What would be appropriate clothing to wear?
Are you expected to make a monetary donation, and if so, how much would be acceptable?

I can certainly imagine all of these questions being asked by a non-OrthodoxChristian invited to attend a wedding service at an Orthodox church, so how much more anxiety might someone feel at the thought of attending an event of a different religious tradition?

 For many people, attending any sort of religious event is way outside their "comfort zone". No-one would deliberately wish to cause offence in such situations, and this is where this book absolutely shines. It covers the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist faiths, as well as Roman Catholicism, Protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy in a handy, pocket-sized 336 page book which is profusely illustrated throughout.

The tone is always respectful to the varying traditions and shows an honest determination to provide as much information as possible, without ever being terse or trivialising any of the subject matter. I was particularly impressed with the fact that many aspects of a religion's intertwined faith and life are discussed, including fasting, feasting, dietary restrictions etc.  Do adherents of all faiths appreciate flowers, gifts or congratulations cards on the birth of a baby or would such actions cause offence? These collateral tangents are also covered, which I appreciated and enjoyed.

It is obviously impossible to do full justice to even one of the religions covered in a book of this size, but the author has provided good basic summaries of belief within the constraints of the size of the book and the needs of the reader. The Orthodox beliefs and customs alone could have would have needed several volumes of this size without even beginning to cover many important areas of doctrine, but this is not what this book is intended to do, and the author has succceeded  in presenting a very basic summary of Orthodox belief and a nice amount of information about Orthopraxis.

My eleven year old daughter was working on a school project involving describing a visit to a Sikh temple, and she was able to use this book as an excellent reference tool in completing her assignment. I am sure that we will have cause to refer to it on many more occasions as she covers the beliefs and customs of different religions during her next few years of studying Religious Education in school.

It is possible to have a look inside this book by going here. It is published by Kuperard, at £12.99.

If you are interested in comparative religion, curious about the customs and beliefs of neighbours or friends, or just want to know what to expect when you have been invited to attend a ceremony or function,  this book is a good starting place and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.
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Michael said...

This sounds splendid. I often have to set people at their ease when they think of coming to us for the first time. The more of this sort of thing is out there, the better. Thank you for sharing.

Mimi said...

I've browsed through this at the bookstore, I'm glad you got to get a copy!