A Remarkable Story of God’s Grace and Humor
By Rev. Noel Koestline
I was delighted to be asked if I would be willing to conduct the marriage ceremony of Scott and John. I had known Scott for some 18 years. He had grown up in the Bayport United Methodist Church where I served for ten years. His extended family was very active in the congregation. Scott lived in Rhode Island, but often attended worship when he visited, and never missed the baptisms and confirmations of his nieces and nephews. I reached out to him when his long-time beloved partner passed away suddenly a number of years ago. I rejoiced when I heard from Scott’s mother that he had finally found love again and was in a wonderful relationship.
When I met with the two of them, I liked John right away. Their story of finding each other was a remarkable story of God’s grace and humor. John’s parents had moved in across the street from Scott. They took a liking to their friendly Methodist neighbor from Long Island and wanted him to meet their son. After all, Scott had worked for a number of years in Southampton where they had raised John and his siblings. What’s more, John’s grandparents had been the organist and choir director of the Bridgehampton UMC. However, John was so closeted that he didn’t come out to Scott the first couple of times his parents had them both to dinner. Later, they discovered that John’s aunt had been a member of the Bayport UMC for years. Scott had grown up seeing her singing in the choir. Not only that, but Scott remembers her as the school librarian who read him stories at his elementary school. Who could have guessed that one day he would meet her nephew in Rhode Island, fall in love, and marry him!
The ceremony was a small, family affair, held on the back deck of my house on a beautiful June day in 2012. I wove their story of grace and love into the casual, intimate ceremony and they exchanged vows and rings with a depth of wisdom and commitment that comes from the struggle of living with integrity into their 50s, yet staying below the radar, as gay men.
Scott’s great regret, as he expressed to me later, was that he could not have celebrated this marriage in his own church, the church of his Christian formation, the church where every other member of his family had celebrated their sacred commitments. The pain of exclusion and rejection that Scott felt and the irreconcilable bind that it placed me in as one entrusted with the responsibility to nurture every member of my congregation are reasons we need the Covenant of Conscience and why I am so glad to be a signer.
Noel Koestline is a retired elder in the New York Annual Conference.
We Did is a project of Methodists in New Directions (MIND) dedicated to making visible our ministries to LGBTQ people and encouraging others in the UMC to transcend the institutional requirement to discriminate and make their ministries visible, too. It is part of the Biblical Obedience movement sweeping across the United Methodist Church. You can read all the We Did stories here. We invite you to submit your own story to We Did.