Religion Q&A: What Happened to 'A.D.' and 'B.C.'?

Plus: Bat mitzvah gifts, tipping the priest at a baptism, and how to greet a Buddhist lama

Continued from page 1

that lists opening and closing prayers:

Blessed are you, God of all creation,
Whose goodness fills our hearts with joy.
Blessed are you,
Who have brought us together this day
To work in harmony and peace.
Strengthen us with your grace and wisdom,
For you are God for ever and ever.

You'll probably want to tailor the prayers for the occasion (for example, expressing gratitude for the meal if the prayer begins a banquet). The opening prayer might reference the different groups in attendance, or your hopes for the event ("Bless the families who have gathered here to celebrate the end of the school year"). The closing prayer might ask for God's blessing on what was accomplished or discussed at the event ("May our work today lead to better homes for our community's poor").

Be sure to check out Beliefnet's

multifaith prayers

for specific needs.

Could you please tell me what a customary gift is for a Bat Mitzvah? It is for my boss' daughter. Is it appropriate to give a gift certificate to his daughter's favorite clothing store? I believe that most gifts have Jewish meaning, but since I am not Jewish, I would like to know an appropriate alternative. Also, what is customary as far as the dollar amount that is spent on the gift? --Tracy

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A gift certificate to a clothing store is perfectly fine, especially if you're worried about what to give. The amount depends completely on what you can afford and what you feel comfortable with. That said, anything from $25-$75 is not uncommon.

If you feel bold and want to buy a specifically Jewish gift, you could give a mezuzah (a small scroll case containing a Bible verse), Kiddush cup (a wine cup for the Sabbath), or a book about Judaism. Here at Beliefnet, we're fond of our columnist Joseph Telushkin's "Jewish Literacy" or "Book of Jewish Values: A Day-By-Day Guide to Ethical Living."

A close friend has asked my husband to be the godfather of their newborn son. I remember hearing once that it is customary for the godfather to tip (for lack of a better word) the priest who performs the ceremony. Is this the case? If so, should it be cash in an envelope, should he include a short note thanking the priest? --Jill

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