Growing numbers of mainline churches and Reform synagogues are holding divorce ceremonies, reports the Wall Street Journal (May 4).
Although these services have been sporadically performed in liberal churches and synagogues, they are now being used more frequently and even finding a place in prayer books and liturgies as the high divorce rate shows few signs of reversing. These ceremonies “can include everything from traditional wedding songs to video tributes to the couple.
Also common are ring exchanges (except the spouses take off their rings and return them to each other) and vows (‘I promise to respect you as an individual’),” writes Nancy Ann Jeffrey.
The United Church of Christ and the Reform branch of Judaism have worked the divorce ceremony into their regular prayer and worship texts. The United Methodists have included a prayer for persons going through divorce to their book of worship, while the Episcopal Church is considering such a move, and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) allows congregations to take such prayers from other sources.
One UCC official says that the ritual helps keep divorced couples in the church community. David Blankenhorn of the Institute for American Values, says the ceremonies wrongly suggest that divorce is just part of life rather than a failure. But veterans of the ritual say that they can provide comfort at a painful time, especially for children.