I thought after 28 years together and two previous occasions where Michael and I stood before a group of our friends, publicly declaring our love and commitment to each other, that the third time would be old hat.
Everything was under control. Tuxes – check. Catering – check. Music – check. Programs printed – check. Even word 3 hours before the ceremony that one of our soloists was in the emergency room with possible appendicitis, didn’t freak me out. I was mister cool, I was mister calm, and I was mister in control.
As the guests arrived, the wedding party gathered in another part of the church to wait. We sat, Michael and me, with my brother Scott, the Mormon bishop, and his wife Ruth, Rev. Bertram Johnson, associate pastor of Madrona Grace Presbyterian, and some of our closest friends. We laughed and joked and made each other feel at home. We stood in a circle and prayed. I was mister cool, I was mister calm and I was mister in control.
Then it was time. As we gathered at the back of a packed sanctuary, I was humbled to see so many people gathered to celebrate our love. Even as we walked down the aisle, to the sounds of Cole Porter’s “Do I Love You”, I was mister cool, I was mister calm and I was mister in control.
As we took our places, and listened to Pastor Bertram’s beautiful welcome, I was still mister cool, still mister calm and still mister in control.
Then, without warning, as the organist launched into the introduction of the opening hymn, “Love Divine, All Love Excelling”, I lost it. Totally and completely lost it. There was absolutely nothing graceful or pretty about it. It was as if someone had turned on the tear and snot spigot, not just a trickle, but full blast. The weight of the emotions I felt at that moment was almost too much to bear. All I could do was lean into the shoulder of my beautiful husband and weep.
I get that crying at a wedding is normal. Who doesn’t cry at weddings, right? But for me, the tears were more than just an expression of joy for the moment. My tears were, at once, tears of sadness for all of the years that my dream, and the dreams of so many of our brothers and sisters, of a church wedding had been deferred as well as tears of joy that, in our case, the dream was finally, FINALLY, being realized.
You see I had always wanted my to be married in the church, but more importantly, my Presbyterian Church.
Twice, over the years, I had approached pastors of my congregation, arguably one of the most liberal congregations in our Presbytery, and asked them if they would be willing to offer the church’s blessing to our legal marriage. Both times these pastors, who would so eloquently preach from the pulpit against the sins of racism, sexism and homophobia, said no. Oh they hemmed and hawed and danced around it, they both were very quick to affirm their love of Michael, and me, but in the end the answer was no. They practically tied themselves in knots trying to explain why they couldn’t, or why the time wasn’t right, or why the congregation wasn’t ready. They tried so desperately to square their private rejection with their public position. What a joke.
I was devastated. Not once, but twice, I was again relegated to second-class citizenship in the church I had loved and faithfully served for decades. Honestly? I almost left. But my love for the congregation, my admiration for the work they were doing, the friendships that Michael and I had built up over the years; all of these things compelled me to stay.
Still, after the “no’s”, it was very painful playing the organ for other peoples weddings and it was very painful to hear these pastors preach social justice, when I knew they couldn’t bring themselves to include me and those like me.
To me, the reasons for no sounded like a bunch of hypocritical BS. Looking back, I realize now that no really meant, “I’m afraid.” I realized that both of these otherwise fine pastors were afraid of losing their ordinations, they were afraid of losing their jobs and they were afraid that Presbytery would swoop in and close the church. All of which, granted, were real possibilities until this past summer.
I was at General Assembly this past June, when they passed the Authoritative Interpretation to the Book of Order, allowing Teaching Elders freedom of conscience to preform or not preform same gender marriages in jurisdictions where it is legal. Unlike previous GA’s, the debate was civil and polite. The hateful speech we had been subjected to in past Assemblies was absent; the accusations of pedophilia, polygamy and bestiality (yes, bestiality) were missing, thank God. Still, when the vote was called, we didn’t know which way the commissioners would land. When the Stated Clerk announced that the AI had passed with more than 70% of the vote, you could have heard a pin drop.
Much has been written about that vote and the subsequent vote to approve Amendment 14-F, which will, if approved, expand Presbyterians definition of marriage and allow Teaching Elders to offer the church’s blessing on all marriages, opposite gender and same gender, regardless of location.
For me, and the hundreds of other LGBTQ and allied folk sitting in that hall, those votes were a holy and sacred moment. It was the moment that the church; our church, the church we loved and served, often in spite of itself; began to publicly acknowledge that Love is Love.
So on a beautiful October Saturday afternoon, 11 years to the day since I had legally married my husband, Michael and I stood before God, family of origin and family of choice, to bear witness to the power of love. It was, truly, a dream fulfilled.