Open Door Days
Churches, gurdwaras, mandirs, mosques, synagogues, temples, viharas. Buildings that are the heart of the UK’s different faith communities, with worship space and usually also with community space for lots of activities.
Opportunities to visit
Nearly all can be visited – though sometimes you need to ask in advance in case they are closed or because of current security concerns.
In recent years, however, ‘open door’ days have become popular. This is when worship places open their doors for a day to invite visitors in, usually with guides on hand to offer an introduction. This is a good way to visit a place of worship.
If you would like to visit on an open door day, there are a number of opportunities during the year for this. For example, during Inter Faith Week and Scottish Interfaith Week (second week of November) many places of worship open their doors – either for a day or as part of a ‘faith trail’ or ‘faith walk’. You can read more about faith trails at https://www.interfaith.org.uk/resources/multi-faith-walks-and-pilgrimages-and-faith-trails.
In September, Heritage Open Days take place in England https://www.heritageopendays.org.uk/ and Doors Open Days in Scotland http://www.doorsopendays.org.uk/ and the buildings opening their doors include a number of places of worship.
In February or March each year, the Muslim Council of Britain runs ‘Visit my Mosque Day’ http://www.visitmymosque.org/ which is a good opportunity to visit a mosque near you.
Visitors at a Hindu Mandir in Bristol as part of an Open Doors visit
An open door day at Wimbledon and District Synagogue during Inter Faith Week 2018
Visiting tips and guidelines
Some brief guidelines for visiting places of worship for different faiths can be found at http://www.rsresources.org.uk/docs/Syllabus/E%20Local%20RE.pdf
Often places of worship are happy for visitors to take photographs but it is always best to ask first. Avoid flash photography.
Remember to put your mobile phone on silent.
Dress modestly and check in advance if there are any particular dress requirements.
If you have a particular wish to observe worship, find out in advance the time of a suitable service and ask to do so.
You may wish to leave a small donation for building upkeep on your way out.
If you do not belong to the tradition of the place of worship you are visiting, it may not be considered appropriate for you to participate in rites or rituals taking place.
Opening your place of worship up to the public
Maybe you are considering opening your place of worship to the public. This is great way to help people know more about your faith community and also to correct possible misapprehensions.
There are some basics to keep in mind:
The Jain Temple in Leicester, visited during Inter Faith Week 2016
- If the open door day has been publicised in advance, make any dress or other requirements clear.
- Welcome visitors warmly and explain any dress or other requirements carefully – have any necessary head or other coverings available. Also explain if there are any other relevant points such as, in some faiths’ places of worship, not pointing one’s feet in the direction of the shrine or turning one’s back to it.
- Remember that some visitors may never have been in a place of worship before, other than perhaps their own. Reassure them that they are very welcome and set them at their ease.
- You may wish to begin with a short talk about the building and the religious tradition to which it belongs. If there is prayer or worship in process, explain what that is and make clear that visitors are not expected to join in unless that is their particular wish.
- Show people around explaining the different parts of the building and other details that may be of interest.
- In the course of conversations that arise, keep in mind the principles at www.interfaith.org.uk/code
- If you offer refreshments, bear in mind that some visitors may not drink tea or coffee and that their own religious tradition may have dietary requirements that mean they are not able to eat foods that you would usually serve. Don’t be offended if someone is unable to take up your kind offer of refreshment.
- Consider having a visitor book in which guests can write about the experience of visiting.