I can truly relate to your feelings of uncertainty. My experience has been in the opposite direction — a Christian attending synagogue services with my Jewish wife. It took a while for the sense of betraying my religion to dissipate, but it eventually did. I remember wondering, “Should I sing along? Should I recite any of the blessings with the congregation? Am I enjoying this a little too much?”
The rabbi and I have a good relationship, and I told him one day of my uneasiness. He replied, “I encourage you to follow along in the service in any way that you are comfortable. There are no expectations that you’ll have to convert.” It also helped when I remembered that we are praying to the same God.
I liken this appreciation of another’s worship service to visiting a foreign country. I can go to France and take in its sites, food, and landmarks. I can try to speak some French along the way, listen to French music, and thoroughly enjoy the experience. In the end, I know that I am American, I enjoy being American, and I will fly back home to America. I have no plans to change citizenships, but I can still value a wonderful experience in a different country.
In addition, I know how much I appreciate my wife sitting by my side at church on Christmas. She’s not looking to convert, nor am I trying to recruit her. She simply knows how much it means to me to be surrounded by people I love during important holidays. I have a feeling your girlfriend feels the same way with you sitting next to her.
Therefore, I encourage you to simply enjoy yourself at the Episcopalian services. By attending your girlfriend’s church, you are committing an act, not of betrayal, but of love and support.
Jim Keen is the author of “Inside Intermarriage: A Christian Partner’s Perspective on Raising a Jewish Family.” He has been in an interfaith relationship for 28 years, and has been an active participant with his wife in raising their two Jewish daughters. They live in Ann Arbor, Michigan where Jim teaches in the Ann Arbor Public Schools.