This weekend I went to church. A Lutheran service, in a Lutheran church. In many ways, it was similar to the Catholic Masses in Catholic churches with which I am familiar. There was stained glass and polished wood and a pulpit from which the pastor spoke. The basic service was entirely comparable, including prayers and readings and even kneeling for certain sections.
And the congregation–well, here were the greatest similarities of all. So many lovely people were in attendance. Directly behind me, a sweet older couple bickered a little and bragged to a well-wisher about their first great-grandchild. To my left, I was entranced by a grandmother-mother-daughter trio. The little girl was probably about two years old. It was pretty much all she could do to contain herself for the service, but her mother had the patience of a saint, and there was plenty of finger food offered. In front of me were two families, one a dad with two young girls, and one a mom, dad, and four beautiful sons and daughters under, I’d say, six. There was a lot of noise and movement and coming and going, but no harsh words. These people wanted to be in church, together, on a gorgeous Sunday morning in Minneapolis.
About halfway through the service, something happened that got everyone’s attention, from the two-year olds to the ninety-somethings: two men came up to the altar and exchanged wedding vows. Ten minutes of prayer, promises and blessings, and they were married. They kissed. Tears flowed. Everyone clapped–everyone.
Archbishop Nienstedt, I’m sorry to tell you that I can’t be Catholic anymore. I tried. I really tried. I attended some Lenten masses a few months ago, and remembered what I missed. And I truly had missed some things: the smell of incense, communal prayer, the ever-present lady who takes your breath away when she sings.
You know what? I found all of it yesterday, except maybe for the incense.
And I found something else, Archbishop. It wasn’t something I had missed, or that I will ever miss if I keep being Catholic. Because you see, what happened on Sunday was not only that two men who love each other got married. What happened is that a whole church full of people witnessed, shared, and loved a marriage between two men who love each other.
Children craned their necks to see. Married people remembered. Single people, of all sexual orientations, dreamed. Senior members marveled, I imagine, at the ways in which their world has opened its arms. Now my friend and his husband’s marriage is a part of all of these peoples’ experience as a community. And that community is now available to them for all the support they need.
You know what that feels like? It feels like love.
Archbishop Nienstedt, I can’t justify the exclusion, the simple denial of love, any longer. Just as I can no longer stomach nonsense like the resignation you mandated of a 17-year veteran St. Victoria choir director because the man had the audacity to marry the man he loves. All of this duplicity–He’s welcome in our church, I hope he knows how much we love him–but the bottom line is he’s not the same as the rest of us. He’s less. He can’t get married here–shoot, he can’t even BE married here.
I’m done with it. I’m going with love.
I don’t need to tell you there is untold suffering in this world, Archbishop Nienstedt. But it looks like I do need to tell you that Christians are taught to love. I want every last bit of love. I want to celebrate every marriage between two people who love. What’s more, I want the love and support of a whole church full of people who know what love looks like in this world, and are ready and willing to embrace it, every way they can.