Dancing Down The Aisle
By Rev. Vicki Flippin
Now that I live in Harlem, I rarely get to eat real Chinese food. Knowing that they share my love for all foods Asian, I have complained about my current situation to Melissa Cerezo and Serena Poon on numerous occasions. So when we met at our West Village church for premarital counseling sessions, I brought the active listening worksheets and they brought pork chops over rice and Chinese buns from Chinatown, where they live.
I first met this couple a few years ago on Easter Sunday. Looking for a down to earth, gay-friendly faith community, they stumbled upon The Church of the Village and graced us with their presence on the Day of Resurrection. A few months later, we led them in taking their first vows—of church membership.
Melissa grew up in a Filipino-American Roman Catholic family but had since become seriously “spiritual but not religious.” Serena’s parents are the leaders of a Chinese mega-church in California. Until she came out, Serena had been in ministry for years with her family; she led a praise and worship band, taught Bible study, and was everything a pastor’s kid “should” be. After being dismissed by her parents on (allegedly) biblical grounds, Serena was burnt out on church, but Melissa jumped into Church of the Village leadership with a vengeance and led our strategic planning committee for a year, guiding us to our new mission statement (which she will recite for you by memory if you ever ask).
When they asked me to preside at their wedding, I was anxious. A few years ago, my anxiety would have been related to the fact that Serena and Melissa are a same-sex couple. I would have agonized over making the sinful decision to discriminate against beloved members (which I have done painfully before). Today, however, I no longer worry about that decision. Because of people like Amy DeLong, Frank Schaefer, and Bishop Melvin Talbert, I have joined over 1,500 other United Methodist clergy who have decided that the status of ordination means nothing unless we are willing to give it up for the sake of our pastoral call from God. For me, there was no existential anxiety about performing this ceremony. No—this time my anxiety was just good, old-fashioned intimidation at conducting such an important moment in the lives of women for whom I have such respect and admiration.
As I stood in front of the gathered congregation at the beautiful Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture, I was full of nerves. I signaled the DJ to start the processional, P.M. Dawn’s 90s hit “Set Adrift On a Memory Bliss.” Then Melissa began her journey up the aisle, followed by Serena. They each wore beautiful white gowns, sneakers, and huge smiles. The crowd, in an emotional and spontaneous burst of joy, began cheering, and in response, Melissa and Serena threw their arms in the air and danced down the aisle. Caught up in the moment’s exuberance, I smiled and the nerves drained from my body. This was my kind of wedding.
The only moments when smiles gave way to tears were the painful acknowledgements of the absence of Serena’s parents, who have not yet accepted the new family their daughter has created. But we have faith that, even if they were not present for the wedding, there will come a day when they can be present for the marriage.
A month after the wedding, our church joined other United Methodists to be part of MIND’s annual presence in New York City’s Pride March. We walked around with our banner, waving at the gathered crowds, but—to be perfectly honest—it was rather hard for the Methodists to compete with the Brazilian LGBT group behind us, what with their awesome drums and walking dance party. That was until Melissa and Serena swooped in like rock stars, joining us halfway through the march. They walked together, holding a giant and ridiculously sweet wedding photo with the words “Newly Wed 5/18/13. Newly Legal 6/26/13.” Fresh off the Supreme Court’s ruling overturning DOMA, the crowds went crazy for these two, asking for hugs and photographs every few feet.
It has been obvious to me in the last few years that the love and faith of this couple is absolutely contagious. They have truly been a source of joy, wisdom, and (crucially) Chinese buns—in my life, in the life of our church, and in every community they touch. It has been a true privilege to serve as their pastor in every capacity, and I pray for a day when no pastor will feel compelled by church law to miss out on these sacred events in the lives of God’s people.
Vicki Flippin is associate pastor at The Church of the Village.
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.