Most people probably don’t think of same-sex marriage when Hurricane (or “Super Storm”) Sandy is mentioned. Perhaps Sandy was not really a part of your reality. For those of us on the East Coast, and even moreso New York City, we can immediately tell you where we were and how we managed. It’s one of those kinds of events.
On the day that Sandy made landfall in New York, I was one of only 2 staff members on site at Park Avenue Christian Church on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. As the Associate Pastor who lived within walking distance of the church, I decided to go into the office, as it was really only raining, and I had work to get done. While I was sitting at my desk, my phone rang. One the other end of the line was a Disciples clergy colleague who was looking for someone to perform her marriage to her wife-to-be. They wanted to get married that afternoon if at all possible.
She and her fiancée had come to NY to get married and were anticipating going to the City Clerk’s office on Monday afternoon after their 3-day waiting period expired. (From the time you are issued a license from the City, you need to wait three days before the marriage can be performed.) As they were preparing to go to the City Clerk’s office, that office (and all other city offices) were closed because of the impending storm.
In New York, you not only need an officiant who is legally registered with the city to perform a marriage, you also need two witnesses. So I called my husband, who was at home and asked him to come, and I searched the building to see if I could find the sexton who was on duty to ask if he was willing to be our second witness. Having everything we needed in place, I told the couple to come. We would do it as soon as they arrived.
What a glorious moment it was! As the storm raged on around us, we stood in the sanctuary, candles lit, scripture read, and pronounced these two beautiful women married spouses.
The following day, after the storm had raged all night long, I was called by one of the church administrative staff, asking if I could do a second same-sex wedding! In this case, the couple had come from out of state and was anticipating their wedding being officiated by a friend who lived in Connecticut. Unfortunately because of the disruption to train service, the officiant was not able to get there to do the wedding. All the family was gathered and could get to the church, so could I do this wedding as well?
Of course I was happy to do it – it was my honor and privilege to be able to. This couple came with their family in tow (so we had plenty of people to serve as witnesses) and was as happy as could be. Not even a hurricane the magnitude of Sandy could put a damper on this celebration!
One of the most pastoral things I was able to do during my ministry in New York was to provide same-sex couples the opportunity to be married in the church and with the blessing of the church. The church has for so many been a source of pain, that if in some small way this allows for even a small measure of healing to happen, I praise God for that.
And I praise God for these couples, the love that they shared, the strength that it took them to walk that path, and the blessing that they have been to me. I count it as my privilege to have been able to walk with them in this way on their journey.
Why do YOU think the church should care about marriage?