Interfaith is not a religion. It walks among the religions. Interfaith begins when we create a bridge between one set of beliefs and traditions and another. We start by listening to one another, and to the humanity in all of us. – Rev. Susanna Stefanachi Macomb
Interfaith is a way of being in the world, in relationship to all people and all that is. It is not a static thing. It is more of a verb, a way of living and of being alert to the sacred everywhere and honoring it in any of its forms. An interfaith minister ideally is one who turns toward all, regardless of their beliefs or practices, with an open heart and mind, offering them a mirror to their own wholeness and their own divinity.
These are just two of many definitions, or explanations, of interfaith ministry. I have always felt that all people at their core have a deep personal spirituality that is unique to them. Those who live the most meaningful lives are the ones who find ways to express their deepest truths through their work and relationships.
When I attended The Chaplaincy Institute (www.chaplaincyinstitute.org), I found that I wanted to support people during their biggest transitions, such when they married (or divorced), when they changed careers or lifestyles, or when the end of life was near. I strive to help others rediscover the deepest truths about themselves and then to be faithful to those truths. I am enormously blessed now with a ministry of marrying people, and acting as a hospice chaplain.
At the end of our time in seminary, our ordination class went on retreat for the specific purpose of writing vows that we would follow for the rest of our lives, both in our ministry and in everyday life. We did come up with vows that all of us agreed on and that we all attempt to live by, one day at a time.
I share this story because many couples choose to create vows for their marriage. I often suggest that they take a weekend retreat for this very significant endeavor. I advise that they should not stop until they both are in complete accord about what they are committing to for life. Saying vows to one another is the central ritual in a wedding. Whatever your spirituality is, this moment is probably the most deeply sacred part of the wedding ceremony.
Our vows were certainly the most deeply sacred part of our ordination in 2004. I would love to say that I have been true to them ever since, but as you might have guessed, I am one of your ordinary, everyday humans living a messy and imperfect life. In everyday life, I forget anything so lofty as vows and just try to get through the day without getting a speeding ticket! But it’s good to turn back to the below vows every now and then to remind myself of what I have committed to following. I encourage you, after your wedding, to do the same.
Ordination Vows of the August 2004 ordination class of The Chaplaincy Institute:
1. I vow to have faith in, and be guided by, the unknowable Mystery of the Divine.
2. I vow to be faithful to the Truth of who I am; I will nourish and care for myself with tenderness, mindful that I am a vessel of Spirit.
3. I vow to seek the Sacred in all beings and serve as a bridge between the world’s spiritual traditions.
4. I vow to serve others with wisdom, love and an open heart.
5. I vow to live in sacred relationship with all of Creation, recognizing the interdependence of all that is.
6. I vow to do no harm: physical, psychological, emotional, sexual, spiritual.
7. I vow to act in service of peace building, justice and human rights, and to affirm and uphold the inherent dignity of all people.
Rev. Elizabeth River is an ordained Interfaith Minister based in the North Bay. For more information, please visit www.marincoastweddings.com.