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Having Interfaith Holidays

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In a country were people come together from so many different places, interfaith marriages are an inevitable result, regardless of family or community pressures against it.

Bob Brashear, pastor of the West-Park Presbyterian Church in New York City, is a minister who has performed 100 or more interfaith marriages. Rev. Brashear visits The Early Show along with Sheila Gordon, director of the Interfaith Community in New York City to offer interfaith families some tips to bring the holidays with cheer.

As a Christian man married to a Jewish woman, here are a few lessons he has learned:

  • There is no rulebook, no manual; each family's situation is unique and must find its own way.

  • It is impossible to answer every question before you get married; even when you think you have, once you are married, something will come up you hadn't thought of. Marriage is not having all the answers; it's making a commitment to find the answers together.

  • Any decisions made before marriage go out the window when real children arrive and begin to grow.

  • Even when one partner has converted, new life experiences, such as the birth of a child or death of a parent, will bring unexpected feelings, yearnings from deep inside.

  • There will always be surprises. Interfaith marriage forces both partners to become clearer as to where they stand with regards to their own faith. The more secure one is in one's own faith, the less threatening the practices of the other are. When daily and weekly patterns are established, when the faith "rhythm" of the home is established, the seemingly difficult holiday issues take care of themselves.

  • How we handle the holidays relates directly to how we handle our day-in, day-out lives. If we take care of our spiritual lives in "ordinary time," the holidays are seen in a context and become easier.

  • We work in concentric circles: first, how we understand our needs as individuals; second, who we are as a family; third, how we relate to our broader families; finally, the broader community, including our congregations,neighbors, etc.