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Posted on Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 6:30 a.m.

Interfaith marriage - when "I do" is faith specific

By Darcy Crain-Polly

Jewish-christian wedding.jpg

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.

Darcy Crain-Polly is the Associate Minister at the First Congregational Church of Ann Arbor. She can be reached directly via email.


John Hritz

Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 7:57 p.m.

Hard to make strong recommendations since the bride and groom's specific wishes are not part of the article. Since the couple have chosen this course, they need to take the lead on what elements the wedding vows will have, what readings have meaning and what part clergy will play. At its most basic, they are asking for a conferral of blessings from one or both religious traditions. There are several books on the topic of writing your own vows. <a href="" rel='nofollow'></a>


Wed, Apr 6, 2011 : 5:05 p.m.

doesn't have to be a problem: my marriage #1 involved a reformed rabbi and a unitarian minister in a church with cross temporarily covered. All logistical problems solved via wealthy ( ex) in laws and some good-natured interfaith horse trading. marriage #2 within the tribe ,so no problems. my kids and nephews... also no problem interfaith (mostly jewish/ liberal catholic) , in one case via a semi- defrocked protestant minister who was in trouble for a noble cause ( support of gay rights ), and did well with some hebrew prayers after a bit of phonetic coaching.