Family’s faith stands on twin foundations

 — Sept. 26, 199826 sept. 1998

When Bernie and Shirley Karstad were considering marriage, they had an added twist to consider. While both were dedicated, devoted and active church members, the catch was that they belonged to different churches.

Neither had any interest in switching to another church tradition.

Adding further complication, each was bringing children from a previous marriage into the relationship, and the children had been initiated into the sacraments of their particular tradition.

“We were both very strong in our own church, he was an active Lutheran, and I was an active Catholic,” recalls Shirley. “When we were dating, we realized we needed to address this right away and started going to each other’s church. So, even before we were married we were switching back and forth between the two. It seemed like it was the right thing to do for us.”

With marriage, they determined they would continue to share their faith journey between the two traditions. They also decided to raise their combined six children in the traditions in which they had been baptized, but they were included in family worship at alternating churches. Nearly 10 years later, it continues to work for them.

According to Shirley, the arrangement provides the opportunity to get to know your own faith better and to understand other traditions.

“It adds richness and increases your faith level. When you are a cradle member of your church, you just do things, because that’s always the way you’ve done them. When you belong to two different churches, you get asked questions and you have to go deeper into your religious background to find the answers. Not only is your own faith deepened, but there is a greater openness to traditions other than your own.”

She admits that, initially, they met with some consternation on the part of family, friends and parishioners in the congregations they attended, but over the years, that has dissipated.

“We were married in the Lutheran church, and some of my family didn’t attend. Both extended families thought this couldn’t work, but we have proved them wrong, and now they accept it.”

Bernie says the members of his congregation were very protective of him and apprehensive initially.

“One parishioner called to tell me I was Lutheran and had to stay away from Catholics. Until they saw that this was working, they were very skeptical. That person now jokes about us being a duplex’ family.”

The Karstads have turned their double-faith family into a source of ministry. They helped to establish Saskatoon’s Interchurch Families group. Sponsored by the Saskatoon Centre for Ecumenism (SCE), the group began in 1992 when the past director of SCE invited them to participate in a study group for four sessions. The four sessions extended into that year, and the next, and has continued with them as Chair Couple since 1994.

The Association for Interchurch Families began in England in 1968 and has spread worldwide. The Karstads point out that being an interchurch family is not the same thing as an interfaith family.

They say an interchurch marriage is between two baptized Christians from different traditions, while an interfaith family is from two different, unrelated faith traditions. A characteristic of interchurch families is that each spouse participates in his or her particular church, and to various degrees in one another’s church. They also agree to each take an active, and conscientious, role in the religious education of the children in the family.

The goal of Interchurch Families is to inform everyone concerned priests, pastors, couples, families and congregations that there is an option to “mixed marriages” which allows both partners to retain their church ties and participation. They want to demonstrate, by their example, that the answer does not have to be one partner converting to the other faith tradition. As a group, they are becoming involved with marriage preparation courses, and engaged and marriage encounter weekends, in order to provide information from their unique perspective.

Couples and families are encouraged to attend church together, and to fully participate in the services, to know they belong and are needed in each congregation. The Karstads live this out as they alternate weekly between their two congregations.

Shirley is a member of St. Philip Neri Roman Catholic Church, where she is a reader and welcomer. The two children at home are involved with children’s liturgy and are altar servers. Bernie has just been elected to the parish council and is a team captain for welcomers there.

At Zion Lutheran Church, Bernie’s home church, they are involved as a couple in Stephen Ministries, are on a Prayer Team, and are Prayer Pals for the Sunday School. As a family, they act as greeters. In the past, the children had participated in Pioneer Clubs at Zion.

Bernie says they are active in the social activities of both churches. While Zion is a smaller congregation, and their status as an interchurch family is readily known, he says there are those at St. Philip Neri who are not aware of their circumstances because the congregation is so large and they are so involved in an array of parish activities.

Being known as an interchurch family has given them opportunities to counsel and share with other families who have not handled their situations in the same way, as well as with young couples, their families, and pastors and priests as they prepare for marriage.

Shirley says that beyond making the marriage arrangements, and determining where that will take place and who will be involved, the biggest decisions facing an interchurch family have to do with communion and baptism.

Interchurch Families group is there to help explore these issues. Their goal is to provide information and hope to other interchurch families that being such a family can reflect the unity of the Body of Christ in some very tangible ways.

Posted: Sept. 26, 1998 • Permanent link:
Categories: NewsIn this article: interchurch families, marriage, Saskatoon
Transmis : 26 sept. 1998 • Lien permanente :
Catégorie : NewsDans cet article : interchurch families, marriage, Saskatoon

  Previous post: Ancien article : United Church challenges $27 billion Gambling industry
  Newer post: Article récent : ELCA Presiding Bishop Says Ecumenism Is Lutheran