They Didn’t Want to Wait Any Longer
by Rev. Karen Eiler
Paolo and Kemper were brought to Memorial United Methodist Church by the rainbow flag on our lawn. Paolo works in White Plains and had driven by here. He’s from Italy, was raised Catholic, and was divorced. He knew he couldn’t go to a Catholic church asking for his wedding to Kemper—for several reasons. But he saw our rainbow flag and came in looking for a priest.
What he found that day was Memorial’s friend Julie Carran, co-chair of the board of the Westchester Martin Luther King Jr. Institute for Nonviolence, whose office is down the hall from mine. She greeted him, showed him around a little bit, and took down his contact information. I called back that day.
We traded lots of phone calls. We met and talked, and I just loved these guys (which, of course, is not a pre-requisite for the ministries of the church—but it does make it more fun). Their original plan was for an elegant wedding at a private chapel on September 21, followed by a gorgeous reception at their home. But their house was under construction, and things happened, and they decided to wait until summer 2014 for the big celebration, at which I will be privileged to officiate.
But they still wanted to get married on their original date. They were ready, and they didn’t want to wait any longer. They wanted to claim the benefits society and governments confer upon married couples. Paolo has teenaged children, and they wanted to be a legal family. They were going to do only a civil ceremony for now, but I mentioned that I could do both. With just a week to go, we decided to hold the service at Memorial.
The day before the wedding, I realized I hadn’t officially gotten permission from the church council. When I called in a slight panic, our council chair reminded me that Memorial has already given that permission, as a Covenant of Conscience-signing church in our conference.
We, United Methodist congregations, refuse to discriminate in the sacraments and rituals provided to our members and pledge the full and equal use of our facilities as we welcome and celebrate equally all couples and the families they may choose to create.
So on Saturday, September 21, 2013, by the beautiful stained-glass windows that include a portrait of John Wesley, I officiated at Kemper and Paolo’s wedding. Julie Carran was their witness. And I was so moved by their love that I could hardly get them through the vows.
That day it was just the four of us. Paolo and Kemper want all their friends and family to be excited about the wedding next summer, and if they had invited anyone to this earlier ceremony, they felt they would have to invite everyone. This first wedding reception was a wonderful lunch together, at which we dreamed of a future when an event like this will draw no extraordinary notice.
They were in church the next morning to celebrate with the whole congregation. And next summer, is there ever going to be a party!
Karen Eiler is pastor at Memorial United Methodist Church.
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.