Unitarian Ceremony of Hope

The ending of a marriage is viewed as a sacred rite of passage.

Unitarian Universalist divorce ceremonies transmit a message of hope and love in a public setting, acknowledging the role of society in the couple's lives. Unitarians view divorce as an Ending rite of passage, corresponding to the Partnering rite that is marriage. Both are viewed as life choices, which are supported as long as they are healthy for all concerned.

Because of this flexibility, the Unitarian church was actually creating divorce rituals as far back as the 1960's, and there are a few "standard" ceremonies that ministers draw upon today, adapting each to personalize the event.

Official Stance on Divorce: "Unitarian Universalists hold that divorce is entirely a matter for conscientious decision on the part of the persons involved."
(From What is a Unitarian Universalist?)

When? At any time the participants are ready; before or after civil divorce.

Who Participates? The couple, a minister, and friends and family; a more intimate group than for a wedding, but large enough to reflect the community in which the family has lived. Congregants generally don't participate but are present to bear witness to the couple's desire to begin anew. As a community event with a message of affirmation and hope, this would be a good ceremony for including children, who may also feel the relief (expressed in the text of the ceremony) at the resolution of the tensions they've felt in their parents' marriage.

Where? Church setting; a public forum is important in this ritual. This reflects the couple's determination to divorce in a manner as sacred (and public) as that in which they married.

The Ceremony:
In the welcome, the minister invokes the sanctity of the church setting: "We are gathered here in a place made holy by the aspirations and dreams of many men and women.here today we bring ourselves and our hopes." The minister sounds an optimistic note, acknowledging that this may mark the end of a period of great pain for the couple: "We assemble with many feelings: sadness and disappointment and apprehension. But also, perhaps, [with] relief and hope and approval."

The minister points out that the couple's life journey requires their marriage to end "in this solemn, courageous--and hopeful--time of divorce." They are asked if it is indeed their intention to "sunder those noble and sacred bonds and dreams," and they affirm that this is true.

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