Saturday at four o'clock in the afternoon, the celebration and blessing of the marriage of Anna Marie Crafton
and Charles Edward Walker III took
place in the abbreviated majesty of The Cathedral Churs
of Saint John the Divine. Everyone took their places in the ornate, carved wooden Great Choir at the steps of the High Altar at the Cathedral.
To the great swell and evocative notes of the Cathedral's organ, Timothy Broomfeld
transitions from one piece of music to the next, using different stops and modulations: someone needs to have expertise and accomplishment to go from Bach's familiar Air on the G string
to Leonard Bernstein's One Hand, One Heart (from West Side Story)
to a Hymnal favorite Jerusalem My Happy Home.
Most people had found their seats and the mother of the groom, Pamela O. Maley
was seated, a bouquet gently placed in her lap. Barbara came in with Q and sat down, picking up her program and bouquet. The steady groom, with his Best Man and Groomsmen came in through a side entrance and stood somewhat entranced at the base of the High Altar steps, waiting..... anticipating... the arrival of the Bridesmaids and Matron of Honor, Corinna Crafton
, Barbara's elder daughter/Anna's big sister. When the Trumpet Voluntary by Purcell rang out, we all rose, expectant, awaiting the bride. She appeared on the arm of her father, Raymond Crafton III
. Anna's smile lit up her face and all of the wedding party, then each of us. Such sheer joyful happiness is downright contageous
The Rev. F. "Buddy" Stallings
, the voice of the e-Mos acted as officient
. When, with his microphone on full throttle, he intoned in his distinctive Mississippi way "Dearly Beloved:" some people had already begun to lose it. Using the standard format for the service, he went through the particulars - you are making solemn, holy vows before your family and friends - they can't be taken lightly, you to be legally available and it has to be your decision, no one put you up to it. Without objection or the drop of a pin, the service continued.... "Anna, will you take this man...." it was obvious she had made her choice and would witness to it with a resounding " I DO!!!
(the intonation of her enthusiastic reply made it sound more like "YOU BET I DO!!!!" )
highlighting how very committed she was to this decision. Chad's response - as positve, but less audible - was also affirmative. It was then our opportunity to have a say in the matter. In response to the question: "Will all of you witnessing these promises do all in your power to unhold
these two persons in their marriage?" I heard the most affirmative, committed, 'real' and deliberate response I have
ever heard to this question.... the gathered community replied with a resounding (and reverberating) WE WILL!!!! I believe Buddy's quip was "'well, that was unanimous!" (or something along those lines). Priest and wedding party went up the steps to their awaiting simple wooden chairs facing each other.
Readings were done by the near and dear. My own heart was moved in Q's evocative reading of the familiar passage from I Corinthians, the one that combines - if I have this,but no love, I am nothing,gain nothing - along with a list of the things that love is and is not. His rendition was exquisite
- and transparent: He was speaking of his love for Barbara as well as his love for Anna. After the Gospel Fr. Buddy - offered a wonderful homily. The gist of which is that marriage and love is a miracle and mystery; it is what is good and makes good in the world. The marriage of Chad to Anna was cause for celebration - love had conquered apathy; today the good guys have won.
The verger then led the officient
, groom, bride and wedding party to the tiled space within the choir so that everyone could now see and hear the pledges of love exchanged, the rings blessed and the marriage solemnified. Within two lines, Anna's voice began to crack, tears of emotion welling up; she recovered and finished her vows to Chad. Chad, the more soft spoken
on this occasion looked intently at Anna and got through it without a waivering
voice. They exchanged rings, joined hands, Fr. Buddy drew part of his stole over their joined hands and said ' I pronounce that they are husband and wife in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. What God has joined together let no man put asunder.'
The prayers of the People followed with various friends and family reading individual parts, each contributing to the unity of the day. Among the prayers, one has always stood out as a statement of purpose to the church and to the world - and on this occasion, harkened
back to Fr. Buddy's homily. This prayer is:
'Make their life together a sign of Christ's love to this sinful and broken world, that unity may oversome estrangement, forgiveness heal guilt and joy conquer despair.'
Amen and Amen I say to that! The final prayer for the couple and blessing took place and then everyone stood up for the Peace. ' The Peace of the Lord be with you always'. And also with you. We there gathered certainly felt the peace of the Lord and the Love of the Lord.
The verger swept back, leading the party back up 2 tiers of marble steps to their seats. The second part of the service transitioned into the Eucharist with many coming forward to take part in this 'foretaste of the heavenly banquet' that our predecessors have already partaken of. There was a particular prayer for the newly married couple and their new life together, a blessing of the gathering and the dismissal by the celebrant.
When the organist launched into Handel and an improvisation on Beethoven's Ode to Joy
the ceremony ended and then the social ceremony of the receiving line began. There were wedding pictures taken and some who came to the wedding took a tour of the abbreviated Cathedral. The reception, highlighted by delicious food, thoughtful testimonials preceding each toasts and romantic/nostalgic moments of different couples dancing had its touching, joyful and memorable moments. Snappy 'club' mustic kept the party going to the wee hours. I left after 11 and some booties were still being shaken.
Marriage is a beautiful institution. We may debate whether it is necessary as a rite within the church or whose solemn vows may rightfully take place and be acknowledged by the church. I believe that although it is, at its core, a civil matter about property rights that if there are two people - not married to others - who wish to commit themselves honorably and with fidelity to each other and God in the presence of family and friends in their faith community, marriage within the church is a fitting venue. In an era where role models for lives grounded in the practices of prayer, love, kindness, generousity of spirit, acceptance, tolerance, foregiveness and reconciliation are rare indeed that the church (the body of Christ) has its place in stating that they will help and support these two people in their common life together.
Through this sacramental rite the couple that is joined together in the sight of God will become a unifying sign of Christs unconditional love in this broken and often jaded world.
Dear Anna and Dear Chad - The Peace of the Lord be always with you!