(Editor’s Note: Reverend Elizabeth River recently interviewed Reverend Rachel Rivers—no relation!—for the SF Bay Times. Still waters run deep here, as both women are experienced, thoughtful officiants who are passionate about their work. The two are good friends.)
Rev. Elizabeth River: What do you like best about being a wedding officiant?
Rev. Rachel Rivers: My favorite aspect of being a wedding officiant is getting to know a couple and helping them to focus on what is most meaningful to them, and creating a wedding ceremony that truly speaks for them. I also cherish helping to create a ritual where people come together primarily to express and share their joy in the love of a couple they care for.
Rev. Elizabeth River: What is your spiritual or faith tradition? Do you create/officiate weddings in other traditions, or for people who are not religious?
Rev. Rachel Rivers: My faith tradition is Swedenborgian, which is a liberal Protestant Christian denomination founded in England in the 1780’s, based on the theological writings of the 18th century scientist and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg. Key to this tradition is the understanding that the physical world is ideally a place for what is spiritual to take root and blossom. The essence of the spiritual is love, and this love radiates in an infinite number of ways. Hence the belief that there is a myriad of ways of loving, and that different faiths are like “jewels in a crown” all potentially enhancing one another.
I specialize in officiating at weddings for people who are “spiritual but not religious,” or from different faiths, or who embrace some, but not all, aspects of the faith they were raised in, or who find their faith in the natural world. I enjoy working with couples to create a wedding ceremony that fits their individual needs and desires and beliefs.
Rev. Elizabeth River: Are there things that are particularly gratifying about marrying lesbian and gay couples?
Rev. Rachel Rivers: I have been officiating at same gender wedding ceremonies in the San Francisco Bay Area for more than twenty years. I am particularly moved now finally to be legally authorized to conclude these ceremonies with the words: “By the power vested in me by the state of California, I do now pronounce you married.”
Rev. Elizabeth River: What do you do in your first meeting with a couple, to help prepare yourself for creating their ceremony?
Rev. Rachel Rivers: I ask them about their lives, their backgrounds, how they met, what they enjoy doing together, and what qualities in their partner they especially value and appreciate. We explore the course of their relationship, including past and present joys and challenges, and what they look forward to in their life together.
Rev. Elizabeth River: What other things would you like to say about your wedding ministry?
Rev. Rachel Rivers: I encourage, but do not require, couples to take the time to engage in premarital counseling—usually four sessions, and often using the Prepare/Enrich premarital inventory. I have been serving as a minister, individual & marriage counselor, and spiritual director in the San Francisco Bay Area for twenty-four years. I was pastor of the San Francisco Swedenborgian Church from 1990 to 2008. As well as being an ordained minister, I am also a nationally certified pastoral counselor, premarital counselor, and mental health counselor. I especially appreciate the opportunity to provide premarital counseling for couples I will be marrying.
Rev. Elizabeth River: What is your contact information? And where do you usually perform weddings?
Rev. Rachel Rivers: I enjoy officiating at weddings of any size in various locations, including in churches, banquet halls, private homes, gardens, beaches and parks throughout the Bay Area. I can be reached at 415-669-9896 and at R.Rachel.Rivers@gmail.com
Rev. Elizabeth River is an ordained Interfaith Minister based in the North Bay. Visit www.marincoastweddings.com