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Planning a Wedding
Featured Books
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Creating an Orange Utopia: Eliza Lovell Tibbets and the Birth of California's Citrus Industry

Eliza’s story of faith and idealism will appeal to anyone who is curious about US history, women’s rights, abolitionism, Spiritualism, and California’s early pioneer days.


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Reflections on Heaven and Hell

Rev. Frank S. Rose helps us picture life in heaven and life in hell, and he shows how we are continually building a spiritual home and lifestyle inside of us.


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Searching For Mary Magdalene: Her Story of Awareness, Acceptance, and Action

For centuries, Mary Magdalene has been the focus of multiple stories and legends. Her name has been used both to control others and to inspire. How can one pilgrim find the essential Mary Magdalene, the one who was privileged to be first witness to the risen Lord?


Love is Life

Helping you plan your wedding

A Sacred Covenant

The most basic longing we have as human beings is for relationship. It is as simple as saying hello to a neighbor and as deep as building a lifelong intimate relationship with another person. In the sacred covenant of marriage, we are given an opportunity to engage the many layers of our selves with another person and to embark on the deeply challenging and richly rewarding journey that is sharing life with another.

The marriage ceremony is the beginning of a life-changing growth process. More than merely a civil contract, marriage is a profoundly spiritual endeavor, which includes some of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of our growth as human beings. It is spiritual in nature because the dimensions of marriage exist both on an inner, transcendent plane which connects us to each other and to God’s loving nature as well as on a natural, physical plane. The very essence of God desires our growth into the fullness and health of life which has been intended for us. When we enter into marriage with this perspective in mind, we are inspired and supported by knowing that our relationship exists in a much wider and more meaningful context than one defined just by the personalities in the marriage. In this way, the marriage relationship itself becomes a vehicle for the growth and development of each partner.

The theology of the Swedenborgian Church teaches that our existence is founded on two essential and divine realities: love and wisdom. Love and wisdom are the essence of God which flows into the created world and animates it in creative, dynamic interplay. For love and wisdom to be understood, they must become real in the world around us and in our own lives. Marriage is one of the paramount vehicles through which love and wisdom are experienced. In the union between two people, and in their response to the unfolding life before them, love and wisdom work together to become a shining example of God’s love for humanity.

The Shifting Social Context of Marriage

This spiritual intent, however, finds itself in a new context, for marriage has undergone considerable changes over the centuries. Dramatic societal shifts have occurred in recent decades—the increasing social acceptance (and rate) of divorce, of serial marriages, of remaining single, as well as the growing acceptance of gay and lesbian lifestyles. Today, marriage is no longer a foregone conclusion for men or women as it once was, nor is ir a necessary function of economic survival or even a pre-requisite to having children. And yet, marriage continues to be desired by a majority of people. In this more liberal environment,the purpose of marriage has become focused on living in a loving relationship and finding personal and spiritual fulfillment. These changes have brought both greater expectations for marriage as well as greater opportunities for disappointment. Some people see this shift as evidence of the dawning of a new age in which people are able to more intentionally focus on the spiritual realities of relationship than has been possible in the past.

Guardians of One Another’s Growth

There is no doubt that falling in love is a blessed experience. Often there is so much delight in this first stage of a new relationship that both partners seem to want to lose themselves in the other. However, as time goes on, it becomes apparent that true togetherness cannot be gained by the sacrifice of either partner’s individuality. A successful union is not one in which each partner has “melted” into the whole, but rather it is a relationship of two individuals who are learning, growing, exploring and loving together. In Letters to a Young Poet, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote about the individuation dilemma. “The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be guardian of his [or her] solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust…Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.” Our most important role in marriage is to act as a steward to our partner’s growth and development so that he or she may live in wholeness, fullness and joy.

Exploring Feelings and Accepting Conflict

Participating in a relationship requires taking risks. We have the opportunity to reveal our deepest needs and to become vulnerable with our partner. We are often pressed to examine the various “masks” we wear to see what fears and desires lie beneath. We are called to surrender our egos, knowing that with a partner we have chosen to lay ourselves bare in order to take the risk of loving and being loved. We know that we cannot be truly loved unless we are understood. It can be intimidating and downright frightening to explore our feelings in a relationship. Yet feelings left untouched usually have away of festering and growing into unhealthy patterns of behavior. When our feelings are voiced in safe ways, we often see that they are not as overwhelming as they seemed, and that action can be taken to move in the direction of greater health. Whatever our circumstances, we can be assured that our lives will not proceed exactly as we have envisioned. There will be some heartache. When these times come, it is an essential act of love to talk about our feelings.

Conflict in a relationship is inevitable, and the successful reaction to it is to accept it as a part of life that, in most cases, will not threaten the relationship itself. Understood in this way, conflict can become a caring negotiation between two committed partners rather than a painful attack on the feelings of each person. Any two individuals are different. They come from different families, have had different values instilled in them, different life experiences, and they may also come from different geographical areas, social classes, religions or races. Each person is a frail human being complete with his or her own set of weaknesses, needs, passions, and interests that express themselves in many ways over time. It is inevitable that some of these differences will bring on conflict and misunderstanding, leading to loneliness, confusion and anxiety for both partners. Over time these differences, dealt with creatively, can be understood as sources of strength rather than weakness. For it is our individuality, after all, that makes us human, and it is what attracted us to our partner in the first place. With that individuality comes power and beauty also. Sometimes, when couples are trying to sort out complex problems, the aid of a counselor can help tremendously.

Commitment

The kind of vulnerability that is asked of us in marriage is only possible within the context of a strong commitment. We all desire to be known intimately by another and to share a mutual and profound connection. Such a union requires trust in another and a willingness to remain steadfast to the relationship in times of doubt and difficulty. Over the journeys of our lives, we will suffer losses and meet setbacks, hardships and doubt. Having a commitment to a long-term vision of a relationship will carry us through these uncertain times, call us to act in ways that are more enlightened, and anchor our relationship to our social systems of support in family and community. The one certainty that can be counted on over the length of a relationship is change. Being fully open to change, while at the same time holding true to one’s commitment, is a successful combination.

Parenting

For many couples, raising children brings the rich rewards that can only come from meeting challenges that stretch us in ways we couldn’t previously imagine. Parenting, with all of its attendant responsibilities, fears, hopes, doubts, surprises and wonder, is a primary vehicle for personal and spiritual growth. It leads us to understand ourselves, our values, and what we have inherited from the past. It encourages us to actively create the environment in which we desire to live and through which we want our children to discover the world. Over the course of a lifetime, there is scarcely anything more rewarding than witnessing the growth of one’s children into full human beings.

Embracing Joy

Besides the rewards that children bring, partnership is a great blessing. There is nothing sweeter than sharing the great and small discoveries of life together, enjoying family and friends, and, as songwriter Donald Fagan has put it, having someone “to trust reality to.” Sharing life with another person creates an avenue for celebration and provides opportunities to explore and embrace the world. The pursuit of pure joy is to be treasured in marriage.

The physical dimension of relationship is just as important as the emotional and spiritual dimensions, and in it we find an invitation to intimacy and joy. Sexuality is a gift of our God-given nature and it is to be respected and celebrated as sacred, as well as treated with pure pleasure and delight.

Marriage in Time, Marriage in Eternity

As marriage exists on both the spiritual and natural levels, it also exists in both a timeless dimension and a finite one. Its nature includes the past and the future. From the past, we carry with us the influences of our parents, grandparents and ancestors—their values and social contexts, their tragedies and life lessons. Equally, our relationship is creating ramifications into the future. If we have children, we are fostering their potential as human beings, shaping the future as to how they will influence the world around them and create their own relationships. Our partnership will also influence our friends, family, colleagues and those who look to us for guidance. By our choices and intentions, and by the ways we give shape to the love for our partners in our very living, we create the reality around us. Our reality is formed by the interplay of intentions, loves, actions and understanding. When we approach these with the conscious intent to welcome goodness, we embrace the power to make a better world.

The rewards of marriage can be great. As Marilyn Yalom has written, “To be the intimate witness of another person’s life is one of the greatest blessings we can receive in life. To weather the storms, losses, griefs and joys of life with another person can create an irreplaceable attachment to the person who has shared that history with you.”

Emanuel Swedenborg, whose spiritual writings serve as the foundation of our denomination, gave great importance to marriage as a central component of the spiritual life. He wrote that in married love can be found the jewel of human life. He also believed that those partners who cultivate a spiritual union will go on living together as angels for eternity. In light of this vision, may all married partners carry with them the wisdom, compassion, love and skill to make their unions aspire to the greatest heavens.

Crafting your Marriage Ceremony

Your minister will work with you to create a marriage ceremony that reflects your values and desires. It might contain special readings, blessings or music which are important to you. The central part of the service will be the vows that you and your spouse will speak. Some Swedenborgian churches are pleased to offer union ceremonies for same-sex couples. Please speak with your local contact person for more information on how to plan your wedding.

Welcome

We welcome your family to learn, explore and celebrate the spiritual life in the Swedenborgian Church. Most of our centers offer Sunday worship services, discussion groups, children’s programs, and other gatherings. We also have retreat centers and spiritual growth centers. If you would like to find out more about the Swedenborgian Church, please speak with your local contact person, or read Our Beliefs.