BeLoved Ceremony: The Story
To quote one of my favorite poets, James Kavanaugh: "Some people do not have to search, they find their niche early in life and rest there, seemingly contented and resigned. At times I envy them, but usually I do not understand them. I am one of the searchers. There are, I believe, millions of us. We searchers are ambitious only for life itself, for everything beautiful it can provide."
My grandparents were "religious", my parents generation was not. My brother and I were brought up with a rich history and delighted in celebrating who we were and where we came from. I was raised in a traditionally observant family. What does that mean? Well, I always knew what holiday was approaching by the food my mother was preparing. Family members gathered and celebrated being together. There was always reminiscing of the good old days and the people long gone that had come from the Old Country. There were also more modern memories that began in the Lower East Side of New York, Brooklyn and then the migration to Long Island.
Growing up, I never really felt comfortable in our house of worship. I felt that I may have been the only one that didn't fit in; I looked to others for cues...when to sit, when to stand, etc. I wanted to fit in. I wanted what I was searching for to be in that place, but would usually leave disappointed in not finding it there. I wanted to hear of modern miracles that I just knew were daily occurrences. I began to search elsewhere.
I spent many years studying with diverse and wonderful teachers. I feel blessed to have been led to them. I spent varying amounts of time with each...some for just a seminar or weekend workshop - some in deep research and practice for many years. My teachers and the philosophies they taught ran the gamut from traditional religion and spirituality to new age thought, metaphysics, science, history and much in between.
Looking back, I'm honored and privileged to have studied with these wise ones and to have discussed, contemplated, researched and practiced what they so deeply believed. To be a name-dropper; a few of my favorites ...(and they are all favorites): Ram Das, Wayne Dwyer, Satchidinanda, Eric Butterworth, Louise Hay, Maryanne Williamson, Rev. Ike, Rabbi Joseph Gelberman, Barbara & John Waterhouse, Ken Keyes, John Bradshaw, Sondra Ray, Emily Andrews, Abraham, etc, etc.
All paths led to the same all-accepting, loving destination. In 1986, I was literally drawn to a tiny synagogue in the basement of a Greenwich Village brownstone. Rabbi Joseph Gelberman was conducting Friday night services. I was mesmerized. The congregation was unlike any other. It was a diverse mixture of people from all walks of life, belief systems, ethnicity, age, gender and life styles. I felt embraced. I was in the right place. I was home. His service encompassed much of what I had studied through the years; combining tradition with new thought, East with West, old with new.
That evening, I stayed behind at the Rabbi's request and was invited to join his Seminary for the study and education of Interfaith ministers. What? However, I did just that; knowing it was the exact right place and time for me. I look back on three of the best years of my life. I met fellow searches and seekers. I was re-joined with my own flock.
I was ordained as an Interfaith Minister at The Cathedral of St John the Divine, New York City in 1989. For years, I had a career in counseling that I loved and never once had a thought that I would embark on a new career, nor did I ever dream that I would earn one cent from my Seminary education and degrees. Well, so I thought.
A few weeks after graduation, a friend approached me and asked me if I would officiate a marriage ceremony for friends of hers. Their story was one that I would repeatedly hear in some form through the following years: The groom was Catholic. The bride was Jewish. He had a 16 year old son. She was pregnant. His parents wanted a big church wedding. Her parents wanted a wedding in their synagogue. Their parents were pulling each other & their families apart. The couple said "NO! We will find a way to do this on our own"....but had no idea of how to begin.
When my friend asked if I would perform their ceremony, I quickly said "NO". I absolutely did not want to and would not. My friend, however, convinced me "to just meet with them...perhaps I could counsel and guide them to a peaceful resolution". It didn't take long, I eventually felt this was the right thing to do, and I officiated their marriage ceremony.
I am forever grateful for that experience. I don't believe I've ever been able to fully describe the euphoric experience of standing with that couple and uniting them in marriage in front of their families and friends. I do clearly remember that their parents - one set and then the other - approached me after the ceremony and similarly said: "Thank you for making this real. We thought if it wasn't what we were used to, it couldn't be real. You've made everyone feel so comfortable and included. We all heard what we wanted to hear." I was floating in happiness, and that was just the beginning.
The domino effect! Word of mouth brought other couples to me, that brought others, etc. I was urged to "make something of this" and so, Interfaith Ceremonies was created. It seemed a timely name for the freedoms that I believed in, and attracted those who were seeking someone to marry them, no matter their similarities, differences, beliefs or lack thereof. To celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Interfaith Ceremonies, I chose a new name to identify my business: BeLoved Ceremony. The name resonated with me. I believe it is inviting and all-encompassing; communicating that each and every ceremony I officiate is authentic and special to that particular couple. To me, it's never just another wedding.