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By: Marion L. Usher, Ph.D
This post is the second in a series about how couples can navigate questions related to their interfaith marriages. Click here for the first post on choosing a ‘lead religion.’
“Your interfaith class really helped us with some important conversations and decisions about our life together. You empowered Aaron and me by validating all the work we have done to reach this point. We also loved meeting other couples that are dealing with similar issues and challenges. My fiancée, Aaron and I, were recently engaged and plan to be married next spring. We need to start thinking about the ceremony and would love to talk with you a little more about our situation. Thank you again for all your help.” -Jacey and Aaron.
Chelsea and Marc have known each other for over 14 years and have probably celebrated both secular and religious holidays with each other’s families. In fact, according to the press, Chelsea attended religious services on the Jewish High Holy Days with Marc.
This is a great first step for them, but having worked with over 500 other interfaith couples facing similar challenges, I believe Chelsea and Marc need to go even further. Attending a workshop addressing interfaith issues would be a great place for them to start.
Interfaith workshops are hard work, but they enable couples to acquire the skills they need to create their own religious practice in their new home. Participants meet other couples who are struggling with the same issues. They will find answers to their questions. And they experience the incomparable value of a safe environment where confidentiality, empathy, respect, inclusion, and open discussion are all prized. In the workshop, the couples talk about issues related to family-of-origin, what part religion played in their growing-up years, what type of religious education they received, in what religion they want to raise the children, and they learn how to have a successful marriage.
All of us -mental health professionals with years of experience and couples just starting their lives together—know that the Internet has is our go-to source for information. Web sites such as www.InterfaithFamily.com, www.JOI.org, and www.myJewishLearning.com provide a plethora of knowledge. They are replete with narratives, relevant books, conversations, groups as well as concrete help. [For example, if you are looking for a Jewish clergy to conduct the wedding ceremony, www.InterfaithFamily.com will help you find an appropriate person. Last year they received over 1250 such requests.]
The power of the Internet for information dissemination is enormous. In addition to factual information, the explosion in visual technology, through video conferencing and other new techniques, makes it possible for the first time, to offer an on-line interfaith workshop via the Internet. This virtual interfaith workshop will fill a void. On October 20th, I will be leading a workshop with www.InterfaithFamily.com for four consecutive weeks. I am hoping that Chelsea and Marc will join our discussion online.
They, and any other interfaith couple, will benefit enormously from discussing what their religious life will look like. Information abounds; it is they who have to embrace the process.
Marion L. Usher, Ph.D.