over the past year i have had various people ask me if i could marry them = be the officiant at their wedding. actually, i’ve had that question asked of me previous years as well, it’s just that in the past 12 months there have been quite a few people, one right after another, who have wanted me to perform their ceremony.
of course, i’ve always had to decline.
in case you don’t know, here is why (i think!) i have been asked by friends and family if i could marry them:
- i have worked in a church setting for a total of 10 years, so i have experience
- i have been to seminary and received a master’s of divinity degree, so i have a theological education
- people often want a friend or family member to perform their ceremony, making it more personal
- people know that my faith/spirituality covers a vast ground (it is not limited to one religion/faith), so i can make a secular ceremony feel sacred – which it is
now, here is why i have said to say no:
- i am a woman married to a woman
- the denomination (united methodist/christian) which i was a member of would not ordain me since i was married to a woman
- so, i am not ordained
- therefore, i cannot legally perform wedding ceremonies – civil or religious
my ordination did not happen about 4 years ago, and throughout that time i have had a lot of time to process what that has meant to my life. i have been angry. i have been hurt. i have ignored it. i have put it away in a separate box. i have closed that chapter of my life.
and yet, it always keeps popping up. so, people have suggested that i transfer my membership to another denomination that will ordain all people – regardless of who they love ( = ordain gays + lesbians). i have tried to talk myself into that. but, it just hasn’t felt right. so, i have just stayed away from it all lately. i am just tired of it.
to make things even more confusing, when i lived in sweden, i worked at a church (baptist and methodist… there is a new denomination in sweden that has recently been created from 3 common denominations). anyway, while working there, i had all of the rights and privileges as a pastor/minister. i did not perform any marriages or funerals (though i have done funerals in the past). but, the congregation voted/agreed that, given my education and experience, i had the authority and was set apart to serve in a pastor’s role, administer the lord’s supper/communion, doing baptism, preaching, counseling, and anything else that came up in the life of a church.
basically, i did not need any formal ordination from an institution in order to serve people. the people agreed and asked me to serve.
lina and me on our wedding day. 26 december 2009
so, from the experience in sweden of not needing a formal ordination and still serving others, to the invitations i have received to perform the marriages of friends or family, i began toying with an idea that i had never thought seriously of before. truthfully, i did not agree with it until i was discriminated against myself and found myself looking for ways to be ordained. i realized that i was stuck – believing that i had to be ordained in the united methodist church. but, that was silly. because, in reality, i was already doing everything. i did it from my heart, with integrity. no, i began to understand that i did not need a mainstream institution to ordain me – god/the universal spirit had already done that.
this is a change from my beliefs a while back. and i realize i sound like a crazy person that just wakes up one days and decides to “ordain” him or herself, and then proceeds to go crazy with the congregation that he/she leads – teaching them to follow his/her beliefs.
but i’m not that person. i don’t ever want to be that person. never. ever. in fact, i’m here, not to tell others what to believe, but to simply be a companion or a guide on each person’s own journey – faith or no faith. i listen. i ask questions. i challenge. i support. but, i decide nothing.
so, with this sense of freedom to do my spiritual work with people on a personal basis, i began to wonder if i should be ordained online. you know, click some keys, fill in some info, and get the approval to legally perform marriages. no sooner had i had this thought that i immediately put it out of my head. it was preposterous.**
a photo from a wedding i photographed two weeks ago.
then, one more couple asked me if i could marry them. and they were dead serious. they had no one else to really ask, and they knew my background. they wanted a secular wedding, and yet, they still wanted someone with some theological knowledge and experience. they kept talking to me… really wanting me, telling me how it would just work because i would “get them” and be able to plan the ceremony that they want.
before i knew it, i was telling them that i would marry them in december – and that i’d get ordained online as soon as possible. and this all happened at my (and lina’s) birthday party.
fast forward to last week, and they started texting me, asking when i could get it done. they want to set up a time to begin to plan asap.
so, yesterday, i just clicked around on the internet looking for different online ordination sites. i’ve looked before, many, many times. trying to understand and find something that might fit with my beliefs and yet, help me keep my integrity in tact. soon, i found a site that explained alot of the legal stuff, state by state. it was organized very well, and it’s tenets/beliefs lined right up with mine: marriage is for all, regardless of faith (or no faith) being the most important one.
i filled out a form for information (or so i thought) and clicked “submit”. soon after, i received an email saying that i had been added as an ordained minister, that i had a clergy number (to write on legal documents), and that i could now perform marriages or anything else a person/my congregation asked of me.
what i am trying to say here, is this: i can now legally perform marriages, friends. so… ask away! i’d be so completely honored to celebrate your love with you.
does this feel weird? yes. i worked my ass off for years to be ordained within the united methodist church, but i was rejected because of my own marriage to a woman. and, after so many years of… well, torment and pain, i clicked a few buttons and filled in a few forms, and poof! i can marry people.
but, while it feels very weird, i accept that this has been my journey. and this makes sense to my life right now. i have been asked to serve in capacities that i could not serve in because i refused to leave my united method ordination behind. but, i realize now that, in order to move forward, i had to let go of the past. i had to stop standing in limbo, waiting for things to change. it was time to make shit happen.
but, i never would have realized that had i not been gently pushed by friends and family.
one more big thing: marriage equality is coming to north carolina. soon it looks like 30 states will allow same sex marriages. right now, we are actually waiting to hear word that all people can marry in north carolina. and the word could come tomorrow!!!
so, with all of the marriage equality progress, my friends asking me to marry them at my birthday party last week, and my unintentional in the moment ordination online, i realize that the timing is right for all of this. the stars have lined up, and this is meant to be.
not only am i ready and legally approved to marry people now, but marriage equality may be coming to my home state – so my own marriage to lina will be a legal marriage in north carolina – finally!
whew. what a journey. what timing. what an amazing gift – to be able to celebrate love with people – religious or not, same sex or not. what a joy!