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Your Ceremony

Out of everything that goes to make up your wedding day, it will be the ceremony that you will most remember. For those couples who want their ceremonies to be expressions of the sacred reality of their love, I can be helpful. It is my privilege to help couples who want a spiritual expression of their love – whether the bride and groom be Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, any other faith, or no particular faith. You are blessed with the gift of love, and that overrides anything else … whether you are of different faiths, whether you have been married before, whether you are of the opposite sex or the same sex, whether you may already have had your "legal" marriage and now want to celebrate with your family and friends, or other particular circumstances of your life. I am here to be of service to everyone with sacramental (i.e., "grace-filled") ceremonies. We can keep it as "religion-free" and "religious-talk-free" as you want. It is LOVE that is celebrated here – YOUR love – and that is always enough!

For those of you who are Christians, the philosophy behind this Wedding Service is that there is only One Christian Church, and all Christians are members of it. Jesus' message and service of love is not owned by only one denomination within this One Church, but by all. The gifts of the Holy Spirit are meant for ALL people of good heart.

For those of you who are NOT Christians, it is clear that God lives in all people, Christians and non-Christians alike. Divinity is within us all, and we are within divinity. God loves every human being completely and unequivocally. I am happy to be of service to those of you who do not consider yourselves Christian, but who hold that a spiritual reality (in any way that you see that to be) is important in your life.

Whether a Christian marries a Jew, a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist, an atheist or a member of another religion, or two non-Christians marry each other – the same Spirit of God gives existence and life to them both. Each is filled with, and loved by, God equally. Christianity is one way to God, but not the only way. I have married people with all kinds of spiritual perspectives. It all turns out beautiful.

For marriages of Christians to members of non-Christian religions or of non-Christians to each other, I mention God in my service, but do not feel that I have to necessarily mention Jesus for these occasions if you don’t want me to. After all, Jesus did not often mention Jesus. His message was of the loving presence of God within us all. We do Jesus no disservice when we cover only the territory he did.

For those of you who are Catholic, I am a validly ordained priest and bishop, with apostolic succession. I witness the sacrament of marriage on behalf of the "Catholic" (i.e., "universal") Church as well as on behalf of the state. Please remember that the "Catholic Church" is the people of God, the community of the faithful and the Body of Christ who carry on Jesus' belief that we are all sanctified ... it is not just the "hierarchy" (reference Vatican Council II's Constitution on the Church). Moreover, Catholic theology has always held that the bride and groom are the "ministers" of this sacrament to each other.

The rules within the Catholic Church have changed radically and dramatically over the centuries, and so I profess recognition of freedom of conscience, which Christ practiced, and which Thomas Aquinas put into words, and which is now taught in all Catholic seminaries. I do not judge you for whatever you do, as Christ also never did. For every single human being, life is filled with blessings and difficulties, good choices and bad, and all lead us to becoming our better selves.

For those of you who are not "Religious, "God" is not some external entity who has a checklist: those with enough good checks go to "heaven," and those with too many bad checks go to "hell." Rather, this Energy- Power- Intelligence- Spirit-Life (perhaps the word "God" is too limiting to this new perspective) is being the Ground of our Being, the Depth of our Humanity, the Connectedness we have with all life and with all creation and with each other. Humanity is not basically "sinners," but is primarily "Loved from the beginning!" When any of us see a sunset or a magnificent vista, when we are touched by the illness of a sick friend, when we hear of physical devastation in some part of the world and then are touched to hear of an outpouring of help and support, when we love our children or our parents or our friends – and particularly when we love that person whom we have chosen to be our spouse – it is in those times that we realize that feelings of love ARE the experience of whatever people call "God." That is what spirituality is at its core. And I have a ceremony for you to express just that.

Many people are turned off by the institutional aspects of religion today (e.g., what you must do or must believe), and I can both understand and respect feelings in this regard. I would be pleased to offer a spiritual/sacred ceremony that will reflect your same values. The one same God lives in you as in me, and loves us all without reservation.

The ceremony is often the part of the wedding to which the least thought is given, or it is the part the couple presumes is solely in the hands of the celebrant or the church. That doesn’t have to be the case. Some couples want their weddings to only be simple legal ceremonies, in which case you will not want me as officiant, but should call a magistrate, judge, or justice of the peace. But many want it to also be an expression of the sacred reality of their love. If this is you, then I can be of service to you. I will officiate a ceremony that can be sacred in a way you define sacred to be. … and it is always "feet-on-the-ground" REAL.

The first principle to remember is that the ceremony should feel comfortable to you, the couple. You want your marriage ceremony to exude how you feel and to be relevant to your beliefs. Then, you will want to take into consideration the religious traditions of both of your families. If you are of different faiths, it is wise to be inclusive and considerate of the beliefs of both sides. In actuality, the core beliefs of most religions today are very similar and the areas of disagreement are relatively minor. Virtually everyone believes that love is the essence of God, and that God’s primary command is that we become better, more loving, more compassionate, more caring people, and that we do this through our relationships with other people. A lot of ceremony can be built around these universal beliefs. I have found this spiritual perspective always works.

Certain churches and locations have many rules and restrictions; I have very few. Some priests, ministers or rabbis are much stricter than others about what they will allow. I use a ceremony workbook that will let you pick and choose among options, and thus compose your own ceremony. Some religiously-conservative ministers will allow interfaith marriages only if both parties agree to bring up the children in their faith; I leave that up to the family itself. Some religions require permission to marry outside the faith, to have an interfaith ceremony or a same-sex ceremony; but I believe that love is paramount, that if "God is Love", then those "in love" are in God. To FEEL love is to EXPERIENCE God.

My ceremony ranges from about 20 minutes to about 30 minutes, depending upon what you choose to have in your own ceremony. If a ceremony goes 15 minutes or less, guests look around and think, "Was that it? All this for that?" If the ceremony goes longer than 30 minutes, guests begin to shuffle and dream of food and drink. 20 to 30 minutes is a perfect length.

When the atmosphere and words of your ceremony reflect the love you feel for each other, it will be a powerful launch into your new life together. To think that marriage is an arrival, a settling in to a life of love, is to miss what marriage is about. Life itself is the continuing quest for becoming a more loving person; marriage is the recognition of a soul-mate, a unique and trusting partner with whom we can best make that journey to greater love more happy, more successful and more beautiful. Marriage is the magnificent continuing passage into greater love; it is not the destination itself. A wedding ceremony that builds on the values of your past and looks to the future will speak eloquently to you both throughout your life together.

Occasionally, couples want ministers of two different religions to officiate. This can be nice, but you should be aware that this situation can sometimes be distracting from you as the central focus of the wedding.

God never abandons us, and never loves us less, no matter what we do or who we are. For example, if God is love (as the gospels clearly state), then love for each other by people who have been divorced is a gift from God. Love between people of the same sex is a gift from God ... and who would I be to think that I had to validate this free gift of God? I do not have or require "annulments" … an embarrassment to the church. Over the years, the practices of many churches have become hardened, and no longer reflect the flexibility I observe is gospel-based and much needed in our time. I believe that God cares less about which church file cabinet your papers are in (i.e., "Divorced With Annulment" or "Divorced Without Annulment"), and more about the love you have and are working to express in your daily life.

Another example: if God is love, and you love one another, aren’t you supposed to show it? Sex is "sinful" if it does not enrich us but is used selfishly; it cannot be sinful if it expresses love, which is God. If you live together, no one should ever judge you for that. Such things are your free choices.