Wednesday, November 11, 2009

A Philadelphia Wedding: The Service

Last summer, Julie and I were legally wed in Iowa while visiting our dear friends Jennie and Mark. On November 7, we celebrated once again with our whole community in the home of our dear friends Suzanne and Dan. I have begun to write a little about our marriage, and there is still much more to come, but it will take time. In the meantime, here is the service prepared for us by our friend and pastor, Michael, and celebrated with us by our whole community.


Over My Head (everyone, led by Julie and the Old First Choir)


Over my head, I hear music in the air

Over my head, I hear music in the air

Over my head, I hear music in the air

There must be a God somewhere.

Julie: And when the world is silent

All: I hear music in the air

J: And when the world is silent

All: I hear music in the air

J: And when the world is silent

All: I hear music in the air

There must be a God somewhere.


Julie: And when I’m with my family …


Gathering Words (Michael)

Dear Friends, we gather in the home of the Suzanne and Dan and in the presence of God to celebrate Julie and Marta’s marriage. To give thanks for the lives they have led and the family of their creation. But also to share in their joy that the world has begun to recognize and respect and support families like theirs.

We are here then to surround them with our prayers. To give thanks for their witness. For the Scriptures teach us the bond and covenant of marriage is a gift of God, a holy mystery, which is a sign, like Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana of Galille, a sign of what God means for all creation.

First Reading (from Jonathon Schell’s Fate of the Earth, read by Amy, Julie's sister)

Marriage lends permanence and a public shape to love. Marriage vows are made by one person to another, but they are also made before the world, which is formally present at the ceremony in the role of witness. Marriage “solemnizes” love, giving this most inward of feelings and outward form that is acknowledged by everyone and commands everyone’s respect.

And the world, by insisting on a ceremony, and by attending in the role of witness, announces its stake in its own continuity. Thus, while marriage is the most personal of actions, in another sense, it belongs to everybody. In a world perpetually being overturned and plowed under by birth and death, marriage can lay the foundation for the stability of a human world that is built to house all the generations. In this sense and in the biological sense as well as the emotional sense, love creates the world.

Wedding Prayer (Michael)

Let us pray.

We give thanks to you, good and gracious God, for family and friends, for sacred moments that make up our lives and theirs. For relationships that are the fabric and the food and the movement of our lives. How can we be anything but grateful? You have given us freedom, choice, the promise of covenant. In you, we find also the power to love, the possibility to live and to build together. We ask this day for your special blessing upon Marta and Julie, and their children Trixie and Micah, whom we now bless in your name as they have been blessed so many times before.

Walk with them, that they may continue to grow individually and together in their service to this world and in their faith in you. Stay with them, that their home may always be a place of blessing and peace. Grant them-- in this celebration and the days and years hereafter-- an abiding glimpse of true life

like a spider’s web in the dew of a new day-- glistening, hauntingly beautiful, delicate, sacred. We are bold to ask also your love and grace for all gathered by this wedding celebration. May all of us, from every family (however defined), be given hope and strength by the light of this marriage. May each of us grow closer-- to our true selves, one another and you-- in the sight such grace. Help encourage us to commitments greater than ourselves.

We ask all this in the name of our shared God, who is the source of life. Amen.

Song of Ruth (Julie and the Old First Choir)


Whither thou goest, I will go

Whither thou lodgest, there will I lodge

Thy people shall be my people now.

Where thou goest I will go.

Entreat me not, to leave you

and return again to my father’s house.

For the God that watches over all

has commanded me to stay.


And where thou diest, I will die

and with thy people be laid to rest.

For I know the God that abides with you

will ever with me stay.


Second Reading (from Wendell Berry’s Poetry and Marriage, read by Trixie, Marta and Julie's 12 year old daughter)

The meaning of marriage begins and survives in the giving of words, promises really. We cannot join ourselves to one another or continue in life together without giving our word.

And this must be an unconditional giving, the likes of which we are usually too cautious to do, for in joining ourselves to one another we join ourselves to the unknown... Because the condition of marriage is worldly and its meaning communal, no one party to it can solely be in charge. What you alone think it ought to be, it is not going to be. Where you alone think you want it to go, it is not going to go. It is going where the two of you – and marriage, time, life, history and the world — will take it. You do not know the road; you have committed your life to a way.

Michael’s Homily:

When I asked if there had been vows somewhere “back when” which we could reprise today, I learned: ...that perhaps your marriage is different because you couldn’t actually get married. No wedding ceremony, sharing vows, throwing rice, raising toasts-- so much as living into a marriage. Something you had to do for yourselves, because the world wasn’t handing it to you, or even allowing it. Promises not fashioned by the ages and passed down to you, or made “once for all” --so much as lived into, fleshed out by your lives, step by step, sometimes monumental, but probably mostly quotidian... daily, almost unnoticed. Until you recognized that suddenly you were married, not because you had promised to be, but because you had done it, all the hard hard stuff and all the daily mundane stuff, all the fun and the laughter as well as the tears... all of it, at some point made your marriage and meant forever.

So I charge you, Julie and Marta, now do not let marriage get in the way of what has worked. Continue to let your lives together be more than you could ever be alone. Keep love alive. Maintain your solitudes; prize your particularity. Grow. Change. Separately and together. Be surprised. Laugh as often as possible. Remain flexible, sensitive, forgiving.

Give to one another. Share your feelings. Set aside time for one another. Nurture each other. And the life that you’ve built together.

Each of you at times must bring strength and support to the other. Even after so long, grow still to know yourselves and one another and your life together more deeply, better.

And out of all that, the monumental and the quotidian (see Marta, I used your word twice), let your reverence for all creation, in which such a love as yours has found its place, inform your faith, your lives and our world. Amen?

All: Amen!

Thanks be to God.

Community Affirmation (Michael and the entire wedding party)

Michael: We are ones who have been invited to participate in some sacred moments of Julie and Marta’s lives. This is just the latest, as they again affirm their commitment, after the legal marriage in Iowa last summer. They have invited us to celebrate with them, to offer our blessings, and support, and love.

Will you who they have gathered for this celebration so order your lives that that this family will be surrounded by abiding love, strengthened by your wisest, most humble counsel (when requested!); encouraged by your presence and instructed by your example.

If so, please respond, “We will, with the help of God.”

All: We will, with the help of God.

How Can I Keep From Singing? (Julie and the Old First Choir)

My life flows on in endless song,

above earths’ lamentation.

I hear the real though far off hymn

that hails a new creation.


No storm can shake my inmost calm,

while to that Rock I’m clinging.

Since Love is Lord of heaven and earth,

How can I keep from singing?

Through all the tumult and the strife,

I hear that music ringing;

It sounds and echoes in my soul;

How can I keep form singing?


The peace of Christ makes fresh my heart,

A fountain ever springing;

All things are mine since I am his;

How can I keep from singing?


Words between Marta and Julie

from e.e. cummings

marta: since feeling is first

julie: who pays any attention
 to the syntax of things

marta: will never wholly kiss you;

julie: wholly to be a fool 
while Spring is in the world, my blood approves,

marta: and kisses are a better fate
 than wisdom

julie: lady i swear by all flowers.

marta: don't cry
- the best gesture of my brain

julie: is less than 
your eyelids' flutter which says

both: we are for each other

julie: then

marta: leaning back in my arms 

julie: for life's not a paragraph

marta: and death

julie: i think

both: is no parenthesis

Common Cup (Michael)

Marta and Julie pour wine into a glass.

Michael: The years of life are a cup of wine poured out for you to drink. This “Cup of Life” contains within it a wine with certain properties-- sweetness, a sign of happiness, joy, hope, peace, love and delight. The same wine also holds some bitter properties, a sign of disappointment, sorrow, grief, despair, life’s trials and tribulations. Together the sweet and the bitter represent our journey, all of the experiences that are a part of life. Those who drink deeply from the “Cup of Life” with an open heart and a willing spirit, invite the full range of challenges and experiences into their being.

This “Cup of Life” also symbolizes the promises you have made to one another to share together the fullness of life.

Drink from this cup, acknowledging to one another and all of us that your lives, though still two, are to be lived out side by side. Drink now, and may the cup of your lives be sweet and full to running over.

One bride offers the other the glass to drink, who then hands it to the other, who drinks.

As you have shared this cup of wine, so may you share your lives. May all the sweetness that it holds for you be the sweeter because you taste it together. May you find life’s joys heightened, it’s bitterness sweetened, and all of life enriched by God’s blessings upon you.

Third Reading (from Rainer Marie Rilke’s “Letters to a Young Poet,” read by Erik, Marta's brother)

My sister and I were delighted that Michael chose a passage from Rilke as part of the beautiful service he created for this occasion--and I'm deeply moved that Marta and Julie asked me to read it. Rilke was one of the favorite poets of Marta's and my mother Trixie--after whom Marta and Julie's daughter is named. Our mother's early life unfolded in a series of rather radical displacements--from German-occupied Amsterdam during World War Two to Indonesia to Sweden and finally the United States. The circumstances of her earliest years, surely, were an impetus behind the lifelong mixture she felt of fear and fascination for German culture.

Literature was our mother's intellectual--and moral--passion. She understood it not as belletristic adornment or pleasant distraction, but as a profound and unfailingly challenging reflection on human experience as an end in itself--as opposed to the view of human beings as means to other ends that the increasing corporatization of everything leaves less and less room to question.

Our mother loved Julie; she loved Marta and Julie together; she had a feisty love of justice; and she loved a good party. She would have loved to be here. I hope that our love for her-and her love for us, and in particular for her grandchildren whom she wasn't given the time to meet: Trixie, Micah, Asher, and Noam--can--across such distance--shine through Rilke's meditation on love and distance that he addressed to an aspiring young poet.

In one of his "Letters to a Young Poet," Rilke wrote:

For one human being to love another human being, that is perhaps the most difficult task that has been entrusted to us, the ultimate task, the final test and proof, the work for which all other work is but preparation... Love is the high inducement for the individual to ripen... to become a world in herself for the sake of another person... Human live consists in this: that two solitudes protect and border and greet each other.

...Once the realization is accepted that even between the closest human beings infinite distances continue to exist, a wonderful living side by side can grow up, if they succeed in loving the distance between them which makes it possible to see the other against the whole sky!

Blessing/Toast (Michael)

Everyone raise their glasses, or if they don’t have them, their pretend glasses (because we’re UCC, this makes sense to us)

Go forth, fulfill your lives. Give one another new experiences of joy. Challenge one another that you may grow. Hold fast what is most precious.

And may the love you hold for each other, now sealed in marriage, continue to mature, that your life together may be a sign for us of what God means for the whole world-- a source of strength and inspiration to the community of your family and even into the wider circle of the world.

We send you out as people of faith, hope and love. May the God of peace go with you always. Amen.

What’s left but to kiss?

Marta and Julie kiss.

Siyahamb’ ekukhanyen’ kwenkhos’ (everyone)

Siyahamb’ ekukhanyen’ kwenkhos’

Siyahamb’ ekukhanyen’ kwenkhos’

Siyahamb’ ekukhanyen’ kwenkhos’

Siyahamb’ ekukhanyen’ kwenkhos’

Siyahamba, siyahamba, oo

Siyahamb’ ekukhanyen’ kwenkhos’

We are marching in the light of God

We are marching in the light of God

We are marching in the light of God

We are marching in the light of God

We are marching, we are marching, oo

We are marching in the light of God.

[Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” begins the dance party!]


Kate Haas said...

What a beautiful ceremony! Congratulations again and many more years of happiness.

Jennie Sue said...

BEAUTIFUL! How wonderful to get a sense of being there -- (did you transcribe this?) I am struck by how it is not just a beautiful ceremony but by how it so perfectly reflects the two of you and all the various aspects of your life, work and community. Love you both so much!

Sara said...

wow - that's so great.

Nimble said...

I have tears of happiness for you

Patrick said...

I was so hoping to find an account like this... Just wonderful, my Dears. And I particularly appreciate Michael's observation that this celebration marked society catching up with you two, that the work, struggle, joys and achievements of a marriage had already taken place, were taking place. You were already well on your way. Much love to you four.