faith: Interfaith marriage - when "I do" is faith specific
Genevieve de Manio
I received a tall order in my email inbox this week. My cousin, who was raised Catholic, is engaged to a Jewish man. They hoped to have their wedding in Ann Arbor, and as a local clergy here, they sought my advice on whether or not they could have an interfaith marriage co-officiated by a rabbi and a priest.
It is a tall order to say the least. After placing a few calls to rabbis and priests I have a great deal of respect for, I realized just how impossible their dream would be.
As a Protestant minister in the Congregational denomination, I could preside over their marriage ceremony. But how meaningful would that be to given that I don't share either of their faith backgrounds? How much could I use the words my own faith tradition while incorporating each of theirs without having to water down their ceremony to general spiritual mush?
Despite the challenges, I believe it is a battle worth fighting. The church I serve is home to many interfaith families. I have seen both individuals of an interfaith marriage be fed spiritually and share in the other's faith journey.
I have witnessed children from these families attend both Jewish and Christian schooling and choose for themselves which faith they would like to follow. Both of their parents, regardless of their faith, were there to celebrate and affirm their child's choice.
Though finding the clergy to officiate the beginning of such a union may be a tall order, being an interfaith family with a meaningful spiritual life is not. Being an interfaith couple does not require that one person water down his or her faith or not participate in his or her own community. You can be involved and serious and yet have separate traditions.
Our members have Jewish wives and Buddhist husbands. They may not attend many services, but they are still an important part of our community. We cry with them in a loss and celebrate with them in times of joy. If we can foster healthy interfaith marriages as synagogues and churches after the wedding takes place, why not during the big moment of "I do?"
As a clergy person, I have the honor of officiating rites of passage in people's lives, from weddings, to baptisms, to funerals. It is my sincere hope that people like my cousin and her fiance can find spiritual leaders who can guide them through their great celebrations and rites of passages, each according to his or her beliefs.
Some day, maybe the words "I do" will not have to be faith specific.