For those of you who enjoyed Louie's Two Grooms, here's an account of Tuesday evening's festivities [February 2, 1999]. (BTW: The congregation held such luminaries as Michael Hopkins, National Integrity President and Cynthia Black, President of the Episcopal Women's Caucus, just to drop two important names)
See newark.rutgers.edu/~lcrew/gallery/RENEWVOWS for photographs from the service
Several times, I heard their voices crack with the heaviness of emotion as together they prayed, "We thank you most gracious God for the gift of our Union and for Christ's presence in it. Lead us further in companionship with each other and with you. Give us grace to live together in love and fidelity, with care for one another. Strengthen us all our days, and bring us to that holy table where, with those we love, we will feast forever in our heavenly home; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen."
It was, at once, powerful yet tender. And, deeply, deeply moving. To be so in love, still so committed to each other, after 25 years. To still love and be committed to the church after 25 years when the church, more often than not, had been neither loving of them nor committed to them, was a witness of unconditional love which surpassed all human understanding. And yet, it was very human. Very down-to-earth and grounded, if you will, in an understanding of human frailty and hope; of the human need for companionship and commitment which reaches beyond the definitions of race or gender; of the glory and the story of human love ("You gotta give a little, take a little, and let your poor heart break a little . . .")
This was not lost on the bishop who, acting on behalf of the gathered community and as an agent of God, pronounced the blessing. He began by thanking God for the goodness of creation, and thanking God for creating these two men in God's own image as an integral part of the whole of creation. He thanked God for creating them for each other (at this point, Louie gulped down his emotion and Ernest's face positively beamed with love), and for those of us who had come to know them and love them, individually as well as together. "May these two men, who have been a blessing to each other and to so many others, continue to bless us. May God continue to bless them in their relationship, in their lives and in their work, that they may continue their commitment to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with their God all the days of their life."
The response from the congregation came as a rush of wind, up the chancel steps, to swirl the warmth of their affirmation and approval around Louie and Ernest, circling the ecclesiastical representatives, and then, moving beyond, up to the Holy Altar of God and back into the heavens from whence it had originally come. "AMEN!" we said together, with as much love as we could muster.
What was bound on earth was bound in heaven and what had been loosed on earth had been loosed in heaven. It was a moment, holy in its simplicity, sanctified in its truth. If, as Martin Luther King Jr. has said, that "justice delayed is justice denied", then, surely this moment revealed that "justice fulfilled is justice blessed". And, justice blessed is as close to the Realm of God as most of us will get here on this earthly plane.
The moment complete, the two men unclasped their hands to turn from the altar and walk back to their seats. As they turned, their eyes met and they smiled briefly, gently, knowingly, the way couples do who have been together for a quarter of a century. It was a smile full of the miracle of the past and the promise of the future.
Side by side and unashamed, they walked to their seats, even more in love than when they had first arrived, their commitment to each other even more secure. Not because of the church necessarily, but not in spite of it, either. More to the point, because of this, only this: faithfulness. To each other. To the beloved community of modern-day Samaritans ^Ö lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. To the church. To the work of justice. To hope. To creating a life which shines as a beacon of hospitality and integrity, honesty and courage, humor and truth. To a God who loves absolutely everybody unconditionally. It is with such faithfulness that God's heart is warmed, God's people are inspired and the world is blessed.
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