The Wedding Script of David Berliner and Kelley Walter

February 11th, 2014

David Beliner, my nephew is Jewish. His wife Kelley was raised Catholic. I was so honored when they asked me to officiate their ceremony. I loved how I got to introduce parts of the Jewish wedding tradition to folks who were not familiar with them. And how I could provide some familiarity for folks who weren’t quite sure what they would experience out in the woods! The photo on my ‘About’ page was taken as Kelley and David were about to make their vows.

David Berliner and Kelley Walter
May 18, 2013
Thorpewood, Thurmont, MD
©Reverend Patti A Pomerantz

Welcome and Instructions
On behalf of David and Kelley and the Walter and Berliner families, I bid you welcome to Kelley and David’s wedding. A few housekeeping matters: please take this time to silence anything that beeps, chirps, rings, buzzes, or plays your favorite song.
At the end of the ceremony, after the wedding party leaves, please return to your cars to be directed to the Lodge. Be patient and the wedding party will join you there for the wedding party.
Finally a word about some of the ritual you will see. When David &Kelley are ready to make their vows, they will stand under a large prayer shawl which belonged to David’s grandfather. It’s traditional to have a canopy or Chuppah at Jewish weddings. It can symbolize many things – ask five Jews, you’ll get at least seven different explanations. But I like to see it as a reminder of the hospitality of the first Jewish home – Abraham’s tent which like the Chuppah is open on all sides to welcome all travelers. David and Kelley have this hospitality and as they honor David’s sabba – grandfather, they honor all their relatives who are not here today. Let us take a moment to think of and honor them.
After they make their vows, and exchange rings –Kelley and David will break a glass. And you will all shout Mazel Tov – which means congratulations. As with the chuppah there are many interpretations of this ritual. Since I’m doing the ceremony, my interpretation is the vows they have just made together will be as difficult to break as it would be to reconstruct this broken glass.

To The Gathered Community
David and Kelley are extraordinary individuals; today we hold up their sense of commitment to one another – and that comes from another of their shared strengths – their sense of family. This marriage is as much an expression of that sense of family as it is a testimony of their love and commitment to one another.
This is not just a blending of families, it is a blending of religious traditions as well – a sacrament which Kelley and David hold in their hearts with love and respect. This weekend marks the vigil of Pentecost in the Catholic Church 50 days after Easter. But before it was a Christian holiday, it was the Jewish celebration of Pentecost 50 days after the Jewish holiday of Passover – which was the scene of the Last Supper – which became the Christian ritual of Communion. This is not meant as a theology lesson – it is more a theological representation of how David and Kelley blend their different family histories into a fabric of welcome. I know this, because I just experienced it this weekend as I met Kelley’s family for the first time and watched our families blend almost seamlessly. This is this couple’s gift to all of us – bringing two families from different countries, different walks of life, different religions to make one family joined together in their love for David and Kelley.
Each of you here today is part of this new family. And your role in their marriage does not end with this grand celebration. You are part of past and future, known and unknown. It is you they invited to share their joy today and their joys to come; it is also to you they will turn when times are difficult. You must be there for them – steadfast in your love, and wise in your counsel. Your place, too, is sealed with their vows. Do not shy away.
I invite you now into the spirit of prayer, as Kelley’s brothers Nathan and Matthew read from Paul’s Letter to the inhabitants of Corinth.

READING: Nathan and Matthew
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away all my possessions, and if I hand over my body so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will come to an end. For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part; but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end.
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways. For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.
Both: And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

To Kelley and David
And now I have some things to say to you, Kelley and David. Marriage begins in the giving of words and continues as a journey of discovery. It is a lifelong exploration of what loving means, a lifelong exploration of another person who will always be a mystery in some ways. Before you give your word, I have two reminders for you about this married life you are about to begin.
Remember that you are each yourselves, individuals, yet deeply connected to each other. We all are, pretty much, what we are. Bumps and bruises, as well as the incredible beauty of a smile and the loveliness of gentle touch are what we are. Bad moods, unreasonable expectations, wounds that are deep and unspeakable are what we are as much as the clarity of love, wonderful insight and the constancy of companionship. Remember to treasure each other for both the strengths you bring to this marriage and the hurt places which you each bear inside. Love the strength. Love the wounded parts. Love all of each other.
Remember to marry each other every day. Marriage isn’t an event that happens and is done. This wedding began long before you came before your family and friends to announce your love and to make promises to each other. And the hard work of living out the promises begins after the toasts are over and the photographer’s flash has faded from your eyes. Every day you will be choosing again to be married to each other, in the ways that you relate, the decisions that you make, and how you live your lives together. Each day is a choice that you continue to make.
Mindful of this, David and Kelley are you ready to speak the vows you wrote together?

SHEVA BRACHOT: Betty and Asaf
Betty and Asaf, David’s aunt and uncle will share part of the Sheva Brachot, the marriage blessings.
The Seven Blessings are a key part of a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony. The blessings are adapted from ancient rabbinic teachings, beginning with the blessing over the wine and ending with a communal expression of joy…
The Seventh Blessing brings the couple to rejoice together, united in gladness, surrounded by 10 shades of joy and a chorus of jubilant voices.
.7. בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְ-יָ אֱלֹהֵ-ינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם, אֲשֶׁר בָּרָא שָׂשׂוֹן וְשִׂמְחָה, חָתָן וְכַלָּה, גִּילָה רִנָּה דִּיצָה וְחֶדְוָה, אַהֲבָה וְאַחֲוָה שָׁלוֹם וְרֵעוּת, מְהֵרָה יְ-יָ אֱלֹהֵ-ינוּ יִשָּׁמַע בְּעָרֵי יְהוּדָה וּבְחוּצוֹת יְרוּשָׁלָיִם, קוֹל שָׂשׂוֹן וְקוֹל שִׂמְחָה, קוֹל חָתָן וְקוֹל כַּלָּה, קוֹל מִצְהֲלוֹת חֲתָנִים מֵחֻפָּתָם, וּנְעָרִים מִמִּשְׁתֵּה נְגִינָתָם: בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יְ-יָ, מְשַׂמֵּחַ חָתָן עִם הַכַּלָּה.
[Transliteration: Baruch ata Adonai Eloheinu melech ha-olam, asher bara sason v’simcha chatan v’kallah, gilah rinah ditzah v’chedvah, ahavah v’achavah v’shalom v’reut. M’hera Adonai Eloheinu yishammah b’arei Yhudah uv-chutzot Y’rushalayim kol sason v’kol simcha, kol chatan v’kol kalah, kol mitzhalot chatanim meichupatam u-n’arim mimishte n’ginatam. Baruch ata Adonai, m’sameiach chatan im hakalah.]

Translation: “Blessed are You, LORD, our God, Ruler of the universe, Who created joy and gladness, loving couples, mirth, glad song, delight, love, loving communities, peace and companionship. Adonai, our God, let there soon be heard in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem the sound of joy and the sound of gladness, the voice of the loving couple, the sound of their jubilance from their canopies and of the youths from their song-filled feasts. Blessed are You Who causes the couple to rejoice, one with the other.

And now Nathan and Matthew, Leo and David will you bring the CHUPPAH

do you Kelley take David as your best friend, your partner, your husband;
do you promise to laugh and smile with him, and also support and comfort him;
to be patient and understanding with him;
to be honest, respectful and faithful to him;
(to provide him with your delicious baked goods);
to love him and love life with him;
completely and forever; If so, please say ‘I do’

do you David take Kelley as your best friend, your partner, your wife;
do you promise to laugh and smile with her, and also support and comfort her;
to be patient and understanding with her;
to be honest, respectful and faithful to her;
(to provide her with your delicious baked goods);
to love her and love life with her;
completely and forever; If so, please say ‘I do’

Repeated after me as they place the rings.
I give you this ring,// which has no beginning and no end,// as a sign of these vows.

Pronouncement and Introduction
Will you please seal these vows with a kiss?
By speaking vows to one another and sealing them with ring, kiss, and in a moment shattered glass, it is my joy and my honor to pronounce you married.
Friends and family, Kelley and David Berliner.

Break the Glass // Mazel Tov

Weddings, weddings, weddings

February 11th, 2014

At the end of last year I married two young (at least to me) men who had two very energetic young children. We gathered as a small group – there were almost as many kids as adults. I loved talking to the kids about why their Dad’s wedding was so special. The ceremony didn’t go exactly as we planned – but it was worth it to have the kids participate! And I was so touched to get a thank you care from them!
Here are some of the photos from a website called A Practical Wedding for you to enjoy.

God Bless Us EVERYone

January 20th, 2014

During the last several months, I’ve had the honor of crossing the river from Portland, OR to Vancouver, WA to officiate at the weddings of same-sex couples from Oregon and other states, where such unions are not recognized. Most of the couples have been together for at least a decade; some are raising young children. I could feel the solidity of these relationships, most of which had been blessed years ago in both religious and community celebrations. And I could understand from personal experience the tension between their desire to participate in a legally binding ceremony that has been denied to them for years and the opportunity to gain access to privileges that straight couples have enjoyed for generations. Each ceremony I officiated, each license sent to the county clerk, felt like a step out of marginalization, a witness to all those who have worked for civil rights on so many different fronts.

Yet as one year draws to a close and another begins, I am moved by all the ways the civil rights movement seems to be losing ground. And in a recent Op-Ed piece in the New York Times, Timothy Egan put into words much of what I’ve been feeling in a piece called, Good Poor, Bad Poor.
“As the year ends, this argument is playing out in two of the most mean-spirited actions left on the table by the least-productive Congress in modern history. The House, refuge of the shrunken-heart caucus, has passed a measure to eliminate food aid for four million Americans, starting next year. Many who would remain on the old food stamp program may have to pass a drug test to get their groceries. At the same time, Congress has let unemployment benefits expire for 1.3 million people, beginning just a few days after Christmas.”
He gives examples of how these decisions reflect ‘the poor are morally inferior’ mindset. For instance at the same time Florida Republican Trey Radel supported tying eligibility for food stamps to drug tests, he was found guilty of possession of cocaine. And the congress that voted to cut off federal unemployment benefits have individual net worth more than one million dollars over the median income of US citizens. [Full Article]

While I am neither a politician nor a millionaire, I am still complicit in their actions. As I watch with horror the violence on other continents, I can forget that there are many forms of violence against person-hood occurring right down my street. Also in the New York Times last month was a five part series by Andrea Elliot, following the life of an 11 year old youngster in New York City living in a homeless shelter with her family. The story is so compelling I couldn’t stop reading it. It was an invitation in both word and picture of a lifestyle I cannot imagine anyone really living, or at least that’s what I tell myself. Perhaps I was so riveted to it because in my heart I know this generational poverty does exist. It is easy to say as sad as it is, I am powerless to change anything in the life of someone across the continent. But is that true? Can I say that I treat everyone whose path crosses mine as worthy of God’s love, and of my respect? Can I say that I live my life with the intent of possessing only what I need to live a safe and healthy life – with the intent of sharing the rest with those who do not share the privileges I have? And if I cannot answer yes to those simple questions, am I doing everything in my power to create a world where everyone has access to food, shelter and medical care?

To be intent on these kinds of commitments are New Year’s resolutions I do not really want to make. On the other hand, I wonder what it would feel like to say the words of Tiny Tim in the Christmas Carol with the intention of living them – ‘God bless us everyone’? May we respond to the promise of a new year with willingness to move toward such a world, as best we can.

Please Don’t Tell My Mother

September 14th, 2013

Judaism 101: My early years: There is one God. Jews are chosen by that God. Everything else is heresy.
Unitarianism 101: My middle years: There’s a God if you want to believe there’s a God. Most people don’t, or if they do, they’re not saying.
Quakerism 101, Midwest version: My seminary years: There’s a God, and Christ is the way to God, but we accept all comers.
Theology 101: If you’re going to be a minister, you’d better figure out what you believe about God.
Life: No wonder I’m confused.

I was born into Judaism and practiced faithfully for many years. I chose Unitarian Universalism as a young adult, because of a new relationship. I became a UU minister at 45 years because as I became more aware of the violence perpetrated in the name of religion, I became more passionate about the need to use religion to promote peace. Unitarian Universalism actively promotes individual responsibility for personal answers to the perennial questions religions usually answer. How do we understand the mysteries of the universe? What happens after we die? Why is there evil? Why can’t we live without oppressing others?
In the US most mainstream religious institutions are part of the Abrahamic, or one-God, trilogy – Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The institutionalized versions of these traditions focus on how different they are. But my experience, especially recently, keeps showing me the similarities that can’t help but exist among them. I’ve not studied Islam in much depth – yet, but as a seminarian and as a minister I’ve tried to learn as much as I can about Christianity.
The wonderful relationship that brought me into Unitarian Universalism ended after 24 years when my partner died after a long illness. Her death overshadowed my passion for ministry, my energy and desire to work in the world, and my connection to Unitarian Universalism. A year passed and everyone told me how ‘normal’ it is to still feel the primacy of grief and its concomitant loss of energy. I began to regain my energy, but not my passion. It was still difficult to be involved with anything UU – including worship.
I found a new relationship – with a Roman Catholic priest – a woman who first dreamed of priesthood at age 5, and finally at age 60 realized that dream through the controversial ordination process of Roman Catholic women. [For more on her story see Sophia Christi Catholic Community.] I started attending her monthly masses out of support for her work. And that’s when my theological conundrum really grew.
For years I have avoided Communion because it felt disrespectful to participate without being Christian. And I am not Christian. But I have for many years been fascinated by the connection between Jesus’ brand of Judaism and mine. Where Catholics see Communion, I see a Passover Seder. When the Priest says, “This is my body” I hear the rabbi at the Seder saying, “This is the bread of affliction”. “This is my blood” becomes the blood of the paschal lamb. The Priest talks about the ritual of sitting at table together, symbolically receiving God into our bodies in community renewing our awareness that divinity dwells within each of us at all times. The wine symbolizes nourishment from the earth – again shared in community. But it’s not the thoughts, or the particular symbolism that bring me comfort. It is the practice of the ritual – knowing that it has been performed in much the same manner for two thousand years. It reminds me of the comfort I find in Jewish ritual and it feeds my aching heart.
Still I was surprised when I rose to take Communion. The Priest knows I’m not Christian let alone Catholic, but the Communion ‘table’ is open to everyone – much like the Seder table. And what I need most right now is the comfort of religious ritual and religious community. Perhaps like the author Karen Armstrong, I am becoming a ‘freelance monotheist’, appreciating the richness of their different rituals and the gifts all three religions bring to my understanding of the world. (I will be very surprised if my study of Islam does not offer me similar gifts.)
So, when I am home, I go to Mass with my partner. And when I am in Philadelphia, I go to synagogue with my mother – the synagogue where she was raised and where my sister and I were raised.

I have just returned from the Kol Nidre service with my mother. It is the beginning of Yom Kippur, and the beginning of our twenty four hour fast – the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. This service has always had a particular power for me – my earliest memories of synagogue include listening to the same haunting melodies I heard tonight. Things have changed at the synagogue since I attended regularly; I don’t recognize very many people there anymore. My mom is 87 and she’s a bit stooped over now, so when we stand I am taller than she is. But when I close my eyes, I am seven years old, or maybe ten or even fifteen and I am sitting in the same seats in the same sanctuary filled with the wonder of tradition and ritual and I marvel at how I am connected not only with my early life, but with the lives of all of the people through thousands of years who recited the same words and reached for closeness with the same God.
A few years ago I would have seen only the contradictions of these activities. Now, I see the connections. Ironically, the experience of the past year attending Mass seems to open me even more to the richness of participating in Jewish worship. My heart is open and yearning for a deeper connection that I thought was part of my past. But time has a way of losing its linearity when it is experienced through the heart. And the Jewish God, who is said to be closest to humanity at Yom Kippur, seems very close indeed. L’Shana Tova.

Caring Bridge Revisited

July 27th, 2013

On November 25, 2010 my partner of nearly 25 years, who was suffering from atypical Parkinson’s disease fell and broke her hip. She died on July 18, 2011. During that time I kept an online journal on Caring Bridge, a free web site dedicated to helping people keep in touch with family and friends when someone is suffering from an illness or accident. I wrote the last entry on that site on November 25, 2011. This entry is a continuation of those reflections. (You can find them on the Caring Bridge website – site name: janiselliot.)
Last week marked the second anniversary of Janis’ death. I hesitate to say the second year was any easier than the first – but it was different. I see much more clearly how grief becomes a thread woven throughout my life. One day I find myself sharing something about Jan or about our time together with the joy that infused our relationship; the next day I am slammed with ever deepening sadness as I try to make sense of a life lost to dementia and the challenge to reshape my living to life without her.
I remember Jan once compared launching children from the family home to pulling ivy – you remove it from one place and it just roots somewhere else. So I’ve been pulling the ivy of lost promise – repainting walls, removing photographs, taking down the house number her dad made for us that said, ‘Welcome, Janis and Patti’. I’ve put new photos up, rearranged furniture, invited a wonderful new partner into my life, slowly making my home ours – but will I ever stop seeing the shadow of that rough wood welcome sign, I wonder?
I feel this cultural expectation that while it’s okay to grieve in my own time, after a while – like a year – it’s time to stop talking about it. Occasional memories are acceptable, as long as I’m ‘getting on with my life.’ It’s hard enough to catch up with the lives that didn’t stop like mine, so it’s a bit ironic that I’m being invited to stay the course of the slow slog.
It suddenly dawned on me that there is no catching up, because there isn’t really a ‘getting on…’ the life I’m supposed to get on with isn’t around anymore. Of course there are the same friends and family, bits of work and social commitments, but at the heart of the matter – that is in my heart – I’m not sure it’s ever possible to reclaim that which once was. Watching someone’s personality dismantle dismantles the watcher’s personality as well.
So here’s to year three – an invitation to come back into a transformed me; an opportunity to find new peace in the practice of being just where I am; learning new ways to say goodbye by practicing always saying hello to the glorious beauty of each moment. It sounds so simple because it can be if I can just let it – be.

Women, Food & God – Reflection

July 9th, 2013

It’s been a long time since I’ve been obsessed about a book. Ironically, it’s a book about obsession – about compulsive eating, something I’ve struggled with most of my adult life. Most people who have eating problems have read something by Geneen Roth – the women’s compulsive eating guru – but this is my first time.  I bought, Women Food and God because it was on sale and someone had suggested I read it.  That was some time ago. I’ve carried it with me on occasion, but never opened it till now.  I guess it’s time.

It was so refreshing to read something about food and spirituality that is so clearly written, articulating things that have been swimming around the edges of my awareness, but without form or syntax.  What Roth says is so common sense – “Compulsive eating is a way we distance ourselves from the way things are when they are not how we want them to be (p.37). They are not how we want them to be because we carry stories we’ve learned from the past as if they were true in the present. Compulsive eaters suffer from “anorexia of the soul” (p.37).  The basic challenge of compulsive eating is acceptance – willingness to discover the ways we are glued to the past and let them go – instead celebrating the beauty of who we are in the present.  Food, according to Roth, is a wonderful tool to bring ourselves into our true spiritual selves – it can link us to that which we find most sacred, our connection to the larger universe.

The last page of the book lists her “Eating Guidelines” (p. 211).

1.     Eat when you are hungry

2.     Eat sitting down in a calm environment. This does not include the car.

3.     East without distraction. Distractions include radio, television, newspapers, books, intense or anxiety-producing conversations or music.

4.     Eat what your body wants.

5.     Eat until you are satisfied.

6.     Eat (with the intention of being) in full view of others

7.     Eat with enjoyment, gusto and pleasure.

So here I sit on July 5, having gorged myself beyond discomfort at a July 4th barbecue, having just reread all my highlights from my first read-through.  I want to follow the sensations in my body, discover the old stories that keep me locked in an unnecessary struggle (according to Roth!), and wondering how long it will take me to let go of whatever my obsession is determined to have me avoid.  Can I really give up my lunch-time reading; or my writing-time snacking?  I found hope on page 74:  “Of this I am certain: something happens every time I stop fighting with the way things are.”

Welcome to my Reflections Page!

July 9th, 2013

When I was doing my chaplaincy training at the VA Hospital, I was responsible for noon-time worship once a week.  I was free to use the 15 minute pulpit in any way I desired.  So, once a week I would dutifully set up the chapel to my liking, having created a 15 minute devotion.  Precisely at noon I would begin.  For the most part the chapel was completely empty.  But there was a video camera on the wall opposite that broadcast from the chapel to all the televisions in the hospital.  I never knew who was listening.  Sometimes someone would walk past the chapel door and look in, seemingly wondering why I was talking to no one in particular.  No one ever commented on them to me.  And I still remember the slight imbalance I felt Wednesdays from noon till 12:15.

Starting this blog feels a little like that.  Launching my thoughts into the blog-o-sphere, not knowing where it will land.  At least this time I can ask for your responses!

Mandala image in banner by artist Mary Robertson, Mandalas 50 Hand Drawn Illustrations Vol. 1.

Copyright © 2013 - Web Design: Bastkat Communications