|Broad Street United Methodist Church|
Family and church. Those were the two words that filled my mind yesterday. As I sat in the sanctuary of Broad Street United Methodist Church, I felt that I was among both as I awaited the beginning of the of the wedding of two dear friends, David Meredith and Jim Schlachter. Having been together for 28 years, forbidden to marry by both the state and the church. Now, with the laws of the church as the only barrier to their matrimony, they were, in a statement of both love and defiance, going to be able to give both voice and action to the ultimate expression of their love and commitment to each other as well as to the community that surrounded them and to those who joined in spirit and prayers from afar.
As the opening overture began to play on the organ, my eyes scanned the expanse of the room. It was a packed house, and people were even beginning to fill the seats in the balcony. I saw faces that told me that people had traveled from all over the United States to be a part of this day. It warmed my heart to see so many of the amazing people that I have met and have become a part of my own life since I first became aware of the Reconciling Ministries Network and this vital work to make sure that all are fully included in the life of the United Methodist Church.
My eyes returned to the front of the sanctuary as I heard the opening notes of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s All I Ask of You from ‘Phantom of the Opera.’ For those of you who know David, his fingerprints were all over this event. While many wedding ceremonies take months to plan and only maybe 15 - 20 minutes to execute, this service lasted a full two hours, but I can tell you that, at no point, did it seem to drag on unnecessarily. So much thought and emotion went into each element of the ceremony, and, while I say David’s fingerprints were evident, I can also say that, for those who know Jim, he left his mark on the ceremony as well, bringing moments of whit and levity at just the right moments and in the way that only Jim can.
I feel blessed to have these two roles models in my life, these men who show me that my love for another man can be meaningful and that it can be as lasting as any heterosexual relationship. They have supported me, encouraged me, and they have welcomed me into their home and their lives. I am eternally thankful for their example and for their kindness.
The overall structure of the ceremony was very similar to a United Methodist church service, except with a few more show tunes. It even included a children’s moment in which David called the children to the front of the sanctuary and read to them ‘It Takes A Village’ by Jane Cowen-Fletcher which emphasizes the value of collectivism and community. This, again, caused me to take a moment to reflect and to look around at the faces in the room and to remember how thankful I was to be among them.
One of my personal prayers is that I never forget what it is to not have such community, to hold on to those feelings of being lost and alone so that I never forget to be an advocate for those who need to experience the love, support, and community that I sometimes now fall into the trap of taking for granted. Much progress has been made, but there are still many who believe the Words of the United Methodist Book of Discipline which say that the “practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching.”
Clearly, our church is not of one mind on that issue, and both sides believe that they have both God and the Bible on their side. Even now, folks are beginning to gather in Portland, Oregon for the international gathering of the United Methodist Church known as General Conference where the language of the Book of Discipline will be debated and amendments will be proposed. I pray that the United Methodist Church, the last of the mainline Protestant denominations to continue to fight the ordination and marriage of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons will be able to find a way to see value and not fear in our diversity of persons and voices. I will be heading there myself soon, May 13th thru the 20th. I will share my own insights and experiences as we navigate this process and experience of my what it is to be a global church!
|Jim and David (Photo Credit: Katelyn Scott|
While the church continues to work through this issue, I want to say thank you and congratulations to David and Jim for their witness and their willingness to share such a personal moment in their own lives in order to be a voice for love and inclusion!
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