Pilgrim in a Strange Lange

Pilgrim in a Strange Lange
Worshipers observe Purim, the Jewish holiday celebrating Esther, at the Great Synagogue of Jerusalem. (Ashlyn Allred)

Worshipers observe Purim, the Jewish holiday celebrating Esther, at the Great Synagogue of Jerusalem. (Ashlyn Allred)

Attending religious services abroad

Intricately woven prayer rugs in an Islamic mosque. Soaring arches in a Catholic cathedral. Quiet meditation chants in a Buddhist temple. Religion has always played an integral role in any culture.

Travelers who attend religious services outside their own faith often find themselves more immersed in the culture. Tourists can conquer the oft intimidating experience of exploring another religion with a little preparation.

Do Your Research

Imagine the embarrassment you would feel if you walked in on the middle of a religious service. The internet and travel apps are your best friend and key to avoiding tourist faux pas.

Some religious centers even have Facebook pages with important information like worship times and locations. It is also helpful to know beforehand whether you can take pictures inside the religious buildings.

Know the Dress Code

It may be intimidating to attend a new religious service, but you will blend in more if you follow the dress code. Many religious centers make dress code exceptions for visiting members of other faiths, but some have mandatory rules for all visitors.

Do your best to be respectful and follow the dress code for religious services. Search the web or social media pages for specific religions’ dress standards.

Make Friends

Arrive at the worship service a little early. Introduce yourself to other worshippers or to the religious leader present. He or she will likely give you advice for how to participate and teach you a little more about his or her religion.

Keep an Open Mind

Travel broadens our horizons and opens doors for cross-cultural relationships and understanding. Always go to worship services with the goal of learning at least one new thing.

You will have a better, immersive experience as you realize the history and tradition of religions and spirituality. Remember, different does not have to be strange. Treat other religious observers with as much respect as you would want to receive yourself. 

— Theresa Davis

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