The Eyes of God
“Okay, I’ll officiate at your wedding again,” I told my lifelong friend Josephine—then added with mock seriousness, “But two’s my limit!”
Josephine (called Jo by those who knew her) and I were in our thirties. We had been the best of friends ever since our kindergarten class in P.S. 44 on Staten Island. When I was seven years old, my family moved to Long Island, because my father, as a United Methodist pastor, had a change of appointment. Throughout our childhood, Jo and I lived about an hour from each other. Still, to their great credit, our parents took turns driving once each month so Jo and I could have a sleepover. We would lie giggling in sleeping bags on the floor poring over Tiger Beat magazines with flashlights. And though our ideas of a good time naturally changed as we got older, our commitment to create and share those good times together remained steadfast.
I was ordained a deacon (in the previous UM ordination system), when I was twenty-six years old; three weeks later I officiated at Jo’s wedding. She had been dating Mike for years and they shared a love of writing, music, creativity, and New York. We had a simple ceremony in upstate New York on a summer sunlit afternoon in a wooded clearing surrounded by wildflowers. A few years later, Jo told me what had been aching on her heart for years. She was lesbian. I was surprised, but not really. She and Mike parted amicably and moved on.
She found her true love in an online chat room (then a real innovation). Jo and Melissa (called Miss) would talk via computer for hours every day. Their connection was strong, but always through fingers typing hundreds of miles away. Miss lived in Wichita, Kansas; Jo was in Brooklyn. They hadn’t talked on the phone even once when tragedy struck. Jo had a terrible accident that nearly took her life. Miss responded to her sudden online silence with tireless persistence; she called every precinct in Brooklyn until she found out that Jo was in the hospital. Miss flew to New York. In the hospital room where Jo lay in a mechanical bed, they fell deeply in love.
Their love was like a phoenix – rising from the ashes of death – as Miss did all she could for Jo in her time of deep need. When Jo was released from the hospital months later, she moved to Kansas to be with Miss. They wanted to make their commitment before God and witnesses. When Jo called to ask if I would officiate, I didn’t hesitate at all.
This wedding would not be recognized by the state of Kansas, which still has laws on the books against homosexuality. But love knows nothing of boundaries that declare one kind of love acceptable and another illegal. The wedding was beautiful – again outside on a summer’s day – with the sun shining and the couple glowing in love. Holding a Bible that was opened to Ruth 1:16-17, I stood before Jo, Miss, and the assembled gathering. I looked in the eyes of these two women who bravely knew – far beyond what most couples ever have to experience – what it means to be there for each other. I looked at the eyes of the friends they had invited to share these precious moments – eyes filled with hope and joy. And I thought, perhaps this is what it looks like to see the eyes of God.
Julie Parker is an ordained elder in the New York Annual Conference serving in extension ministry as a professor at Andover Newton Theological School.
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.