[This post is the first in a series on the columnist's search for a church home for her family.]
Written by Love Isn’t Enough columnist Annie Avery
For a long time my partner, who is Jewish, and I were pretty smug about not having conflicts from being an interfaith couple.
Then I got pregnant. We didn’t know the baby’s gender and we had an argument about circumcision. She couldn’t imagine not having a bris if we had a son, and I couldn’t imagine subjecting our child to unnecessary pain. Our compromise: if we had a boy I’d get to decide about circumcision, and she’d get to name the baby.
Fortunately we had a girl.
It was a wake-up call to the fact that we did have issues about being an interfaith couple. Looking back I can see that there were conflicts about religion all along, we just chose not to see them.
When our older daughter was three we tried Unitarian, having heard that a lot of Jewish-Christian couples end up there. We loved that church, but only attended a few times before my partner’s job caused us to leave New York for Chicago. At about the same time we decided to pursue adoption. My partner and I and our older daughter are white and we were likely to be matched with a black or biracial baby, so we began preparing ourselves to be a multiracial family. Aware now of race in a new way, it became another factor in our search for a religious home.
The first church we tried in Chicago (Unitarian) was all white. The next (Congregationalist) had a service that was too long. The next (Unity) asked my partner to take our then-five-month-old baby out of the service because her babbling was interfering with audiotaping the service, plus, they sang “People Who Need People”. The next (Unitarian again, but in a racially diverse neighborhood) was racially mixed but lacked energy. The next (Episcopal, with a reputation for being attended by gay people of color) was vibrant and racially mixed, but had fewer then forty people at the service. On Easter.
As we drove through a west side Chicago neighborhood that Easter we passed churches that, to judge by the crowds, housed large black congregations. I was tempted to try one, but wary of the condemnation black gay and lesbian people have experienced in black churches. Our kids would be embraced for sure. I don’t know how my partner and I would be received.
We went to a liberal synagogue for Family Shabbat: a potluck dinner followed by a family-friendly service. The congregation included a lesbian family, several multiracial families, and other black people. The rabbi welcomed me as warmly as she welcomed my partner, our nine-year-old was drafted for the choir, our four-year-old spent the service on a new friend’s lap, and we felt at home.
But I felt a little envious, so knew I was not ready to give up the search for a church. Besides, as genuinely as our new temple community embraces our four-year-old African American daughter, the road for black Jews is hard (see Rebecca Walker’s book, Black, White, and Jewish). I want to give our kids options.
Next up: a Catholic church in a gay neighborhood, which I’m told is a comfortable place for people of color as well as gay people.
Photo Credit: Weidmaier