Saturday, 21 February 2015

Marriage equality?

Back in my Chicopee days (1980-84) I agreed to offer prayer at a ceremony in which two women would pledge their love and fidelity to each other.  Some called these ceremonies "Holy Unions".
 
Then I chickened out (to my shame). I was afraid of my Bishop and his likely unfavourable reaction.
 
In Pittsfield  (1984 -2000) I offered prayer at two such "Holy Unions", one in the Chapel at St. Stephen's, and another in a Hotel Ballroom.  I was beginning to lose my fear of Bishops.
 
This was nn the basis that God "blessed" the relationships between Ruth and Naomi, and between David and Jonathan (without believing for a moment that those biblical tender friendships were in any way comparable to modern understandings of same sex relationships).
 
Those ceremonies had no legal force.  But the legalities began to change in  the U.S.A  particularly in Massachusetts back in 2004, when the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that same sex marriages were permissible.  (The route to that decision was far more complicated than I could explain in a few sentences).
 
The then Bishop of Massachusetts ( the late Bishop Thomas Shaw), ruled that Clerics in the Diocese could bless same sex marriages, provided that the Civil Ceremony had been conducted by a Justice of the Peace (or some other authorized person).
 
Thus it was that in 2006 I presided at a Eucharist of Blessing for the Senior Warden at St. James's, George Van Hazinga, and his partner the Revd Ed. Greene.
 
Their legal marriage took place in our parish hall, from whence we proceeded to the Sanctuary for the Eucharist and Blessing.
 
I had taken care to share my decision with the Vestry  (the ruling body in a local Episcopal Church). I made it clear that I was not seeking their permission, but that I valued their opinion.  I asked the members of the Vestry to speak - one by one.    I heard joyful affirmation from every member except one.
 
She, a congenitally conservative parishioner from the West Indies said something like this,   "I used to be against gay and lesbian couples until two lesbians moved into the house next to mine.  I grew to like them, and to appreciate their relationship.  I still do not know what to think about the blessing of the Church on same sex marriages, BUT I WILL ATTEND THE CEREMONY".
 
What a grace-filled response.  She attended the Eucharist of Blessing!
 
Incidentally, when the Liturgy called for a Prayer of Blessing, I invited all Ordained Ministers of whatever denomination  to join me at the Altar.  If my memory serves me well ten other Ministers joined with me in that Blessing.
 
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Because of Court rulings same sex marriages are now legally permissibly in conservative Florida.
 
(My local Bishop of South West Florida has not authorized  Clerics to preside at them).
 
But (with his knowledge) I attended the wedding of my friends Rick and John last Friday at our local Unitarian-Universalist congregation.  The ceremony (for me) was a bit arid because there was no prayer, and no mention of God. Such is the wont of some U-U's.
 
AND FOR  GOODNESS SAKE , I am still not sure what my theological mind thinks about such ceremonies.    But I was present because of my fondness and respect for John and Rick.
 
Rick and John exchange vows.
 
Exchanging Rings
 
My friend Ben - on the left, with another friend Bob to his right.
 
A gorgeous after wedding feast.
 
The Cake
 
Rick's poodles Louis (l) Vuitton (r)

My dog Penne is crazily in love with these two poodles. She sniffs their nether regions at every opportunity.  They do not resist!
 
Here I am with Vuitton
 
My "bestie" Ben and I tuck in to our lunch.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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