Hatch. Match. Dispatch.
Twenty-two years, I have been in the baptizing, marrying, and burying business.
Ordained an Episcopal priest in 1994, I have long lost count of how many people I have sprinkled, laid to rest, or joined in Holy Matrimony. It is a rare privilege to be with people at such junctures – both the most joyous and the most grief filled times in their lives.
Married, myself, most happily for twenty-eight years, and happily divorced for thirteen, wedding bells do not in the least bit tempt me. I would much rather wear cassock and surplice than a wedding gown at a wedding, any day.
Three weeks ago, a picture of priestly me doing just this – presiding at someone else’s wedding – showed up in the Sunday morning Washington Post! Where? In the LOVE section, of course, on page E14. A total surprise to me!
At Saint Paul’s Memorial, in Charlottesville, Virginia, there I am vested and standing at the altar between Andrew and Kelly: in the photo beneath the fold.
I LOVE presiding over LOVE.
Andrew and Kelly’s ceremony, though large, was intimate, lovely, and tender. Having written their own vows and being close friends of my daughter Colleen, it felt very personal to me.
And personal is that mystical and magical word that describes the most meaningful weddings I have done – regardless of the number of bridesmaids, or guests, or dinner courses at the reception. Weddings with a personal and intimate touch are the ones that I cherish.
Sarah and Nate’s wedding, Valentine’s Day a year ago was a parish wedding. Together with my rocking colleague, Chuck, we celebrated the “SOHO” marriage, at a lovely little Virginia golf club. So many Emmanuel friends were gathered round the tables, it felt like family.
At least, the way I think family weddings should feel:
The way, very much, my brother. Joseph and his partner, John’s wedding felt three brief weeks ago. Quite a love story, Joseph and John reconnected on Facebook after having dated way back in the ‘70’s and again in the 80’s.
Deeply touched, I was invited to officiate. They set the date for June 3rd, 2017 – what would have been our Mary Lou and Bernard’s – our parents’ — 66th wedding anniversary.
But then November 8th happened. The election results bode the possibility that newly won LGBTQ rights to marry might be overturned. So on December 18th, in Hyattsville, Maryland, in my baby brother’s dining room, in his adorable little house, I joined Joseph and his beloved partner John in Holy Matrimony.
Just seven (a very biblical number!) people in attendance, it is just about the loveliest wedding I have been a part of — so far.
And now, my own firstborn son, Zachariah, over Thanksgiving, proposed to his seven-year beloved, Jen. (Again, a biblical number!) The date has been set for the Saturday after Thanksgiving next.
It too, will be a very small and intimate affair, maybe on a boat at sunset, somewhere on the water. Defying tradition, it will still be a sacred occasion but of a more secular kind.
Zach is an atheist who does not darken the door of a church (though he is very proud of his mom!)
Home over Christmas, I ask him gingerly,
“So, Zach, what kind of ceremony are you going to have?”
And I get a most unexpected answer:
“Well, mom, we were wondering if you could do it. But with two conditions.”
Knowing him well, I blurt out,
“No mention of God, right? YES! I can say whatever you want me to say!”
“And the second condition, mom, is can you do it without crying?”
“Whoa! That will be really hard. But, YES, YES, of course, I can!”
And now, of course, I am crying like a baby; happy, crazy tears.
So, by my count, that is four weddings. And this week, I have a Christening.
Misty eyed, I am jumping on an Amtrak train to New York City, to baptize my first great-niece – little Virginia – firstborn daughter of my niece, Lauren and her husband, Gordon; firstborn granddaughter of my brother, Tim and his wife, Martha.
I LOVE presiding over LOVE.
The love of these four weddings and this Christening blesses me. It blesses all who share in the celebration. It blesses all the souls connected by these sacred (and sometimes secular) rituals.
Be it in good times or bad times. Be it in hello times or goodbye times. In all the ups and downs, of this mystical magical thing we call life, such love can bless us all.
At little Virginia’s baptism, we will read the same sacred scripture that was read at her parents’ wedding: good old First Corinthians 13 – read at thousands of weddings for hundreds of years.
And though, I have heard it a million times, I pray, I never tire of hearing it or reading it.
God bless you, Saint Paul.
Love is patient. Love is kind. Love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrong but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Faith, hope, and love abide. And the greatest of these is love.
Yes, the greatest of these is love.
The Rev: Joani