By Paul Chaffee
THE LOVE STORY OF AGAPI AND AARON
Despite disapproval from most religious communities and their families, thousands of young people today (and quite a few older ones) are falling in love and getting married to partners who come from totally different cultures and religious backgrounds.
These marriages can be tough, many have noted. (Is marriage ever easy?!) However challenging, though, it’s becoming clear that interfaith marriages can offer extraordinary benefits. It helps, of course, if couples are mindful of what they are up to, have taken the time to talk about religion, about raising the kids and money and family expectations, about what each feels is most valuable about their spiritual background and commitment.
Finding supportive clergy and sanctuaries to serve this growing community has been difficult for the past quarter-century. Universal Life ‘ordinations’ too often have offered a legal but hardly spiritual work-around. At the same time, however, numerous interfaith seminaries, operating with a non-traditional approach to higher religious education, have developed increasingly rigorous programs designed to address the needs of thousands of interfaith couples (among others) without a spiritual home for their ceremony. OUnI (the Order of Universal Interfaith) is a new denominational body with 600 members, two-thirds of them ordained clergy, credentialed and self-identifying as Interfaith ministers.
This new, largely North American community is producing some excellent resources. Interfaith Weddings and InterSpirituality, embedded on the right,is a beautifully produced story of Agapi Theodourou, a Greek Orthodox bride, and Aaron Shapiro, a Jewish groom. They each come from rich cultural backgrounds, which the video details.
Their ability to appreciate each other and enter into each other’s world is exemplary. The difficulties they bump into are not ignored, in particular the pain Agapi’s mother feels because her daughter cannot be married in their home church, since Agapi’s fiancé is not Orthodox. In the end, the honesty and rigor of Agapi and Aaron as they mindfully, spiritually create a new life for themselves makes this brief story hopeful and compelling.
The 15-minute video was beautifully produced by Holy Rascals in cooperation with OUnI. Holy Rascals is a media production company guided by the genius of Rami Shapiro, much-loved Jewish rabbi who is also an initiate in the Vedantic Ramakrishna Order, who appears briefly in the video. Tim Miner, co-founder of OUnI, is also featured, as is Claire Goodman, who has officiated at more than 700 mostly interfaith weddings.