The Holy Union of Larry Ellis and James Raymer: Order of Service

April 24, 1999

PRE-CEREMONY MUSIC

PROCESSIONAL MUSIC

Nancy/Jimmy/Mel enter (remain at pulpit together)

WELCOME – Rev. Mel White

On behalf of Jim and Larry, I welcome you to this celebration of their commitment to each other. We are here to affirm intimate relationship in its many and varied forms: the love of family, the support of friends. We are here to witness the making of a covenant expressed in solemn vows and promises.

Perhaps these moments will offer each of you the opportunity to review and reflect upon your life commitments and important relationships. May this time facilitate the renewal of your commitments and covenants to family, friends, and community.

By our presence here today, we offer best wishes and affirm our support of the promises Jim and Larry are about to make to each other. To indicate this, would you please stand.

PROCESSION (to music) as couple and witnesses come forward

- Witnesses / Jim & Larry (Jim & Larry each light unity candles as they arrive at the altar )

INTRODUCTION – Jimmy Creech "Please be seated."

This a timeless moment, a moment of hope and expectation, when standing before God and among you, their friends, Jim and Larry pledge themselves to each other in the covenant of Holy Union.

What Jim and Larry mean to each other is obvious in their lives, but it is not easily expressed in the language of a ceremony. Any union, to be complete, must first be Spiritual. A marriage, in truth, is the uniting of two souls already attuned to and united with each other. To share their lives, to encourage creativity, to inspire each other to reach beyond the limits of the ordinary . . . not at the expense of each partner’s individuality, but rather by the strength of the common bond, this is the hope in which Jim and Larry come to be united."

Through this rite of passage, two persons declare publicly their intent to enter into a covenant relationship of enduring love. This occasion is not a spectacle, but a holy moment; it is not a mere formality. We are witnesses to the making of a covenant. This is a celebration of the highest we know in love, the pledging of the deepest fidelity and trust, the expression of the highest aspiration.

It is our hope that those of you who live in an intimate and loving relationship will take this occasion to renew your own vows, and that all of you will share in this celebration by offering your prayerful thoughts for Jim and Larry.

[Jimmy’s remarks (recognition of gay/lesbian partnerships)] – Jimmy is seated

CALL TO WORSHIP – Nancy Wilson

"Beloved, let us love one another; for love is from God. And everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love" (1 John 4:7-8).

PRAYER OF APPROACH – Nancy Wilson

"Eternal God, Creator of all things, Source of every good and perfect gift, you made us and you sustain us; we depend on you. We praise you for the gift of life; we thank you for making us able to think about life’s meaning and purposes; and most especially do we glorify you for the love you have created in us. We also give you thanks, dear God, for Jim and Larry who are making a public declaration of their commitment to each other today."

"May your Holy Spirit empower them to perform and keep the solemn covenant they are about to make, and keep them ever growing in love for one another and for You."

"This we ask in the name of Jesus, the Christ who taught us the true meaning of love, Amen."

"Luther called the Christian home "the little church" undoubtedly for many reasons but surely because, daily, family life is where spiritual discipline is constantly tested. Today we celebrate the hope that in this commitment, your love will grow more and more elastic, more able to accept, adapt and speak to the presence of this other in your life who is both the irritant and the pearl in your oyster. Christian ministry is the ministry of reconciliation and home life is the crucible of both the successes and the failures that we all experience in that ministry of reconciliation.

Your relationship will constantly be renegotiated. Just as we become experts in one way of relating, the roiling growth and surprises of God’s creation transform us and transform our relationships. When at times your relationship gets stuck, it may be because you are trying to maintain it from the stance of the past, expecting the puzzle pieces of life to fit together as they always have. Who would ever imagine that God so arranged the world that the puzzle pieces are constantly changing and find their "fittedness" in ways we do not anticipate. And so reconnection and healing, the most important ongoing tasks of family living, are moments of grace, miracles of the tenacity and elasticity of the gift of love that is God’s blessing for you.

This movement of your relationship in its exclusivity exhibits the gospel paradox of limits that expand energy and commitment to life in the world. This paradox is much like the movement of faith, demanding an exclusive commitment to a God who will frustrate our every move toward our treasured fantasy of a domesticated and controllable creation.

We have gathered here not only to celebrate the exclusive commitment that you are prepared to make before this company and before God, but also to celebrate the way in which that commitment has empowered the expansiveness of your love not only for each other, not only for your family and friends, but for the world that you are serving and will continue to meet face to face.

You have sustained the blows that reality has handed you and from which many of us wish we could protect you — and would try to protect you even now! Do not listen to us! Live boldly in the name of the One who gave you this life and calls you out to share it with others. The God who brought you this far will go with you as will our love and support. Accept our tears not only for you but also for the ways that we now must change. These tears express the joy that you are to us as you expand your family and ours. Amen" Rev. Jill Edens

[Witnesses and Couple are seated]

GENERAL CONFESSION and ASSURANCE OF PARDON – Minister

"We are gathered here to celebrate the love that Jim and Larry have for one another, a love that is but a reflection of God’s love for all people, a love which expresses in a particular way our Savior Christ’s command that we love one another as Christ has loved us. But we do not always keep that command. Therefore, in the silence of our hearts, let us silently confess to God the ways in which, by what we have said and done and by what we have failed to say and do, we have not loved God, not loved others, and not loved ourselves as we ought to."

[Period of silent confession] Nancy is seated

READINGS – two witnesses approach pulpit together

"Hear some words of eternal truth:"
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 (NIV)
9. Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work;
10. If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!
11. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
12. Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.

I John 4
7. Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 12. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and God’s love is made complete in us.

"Let your love be genuine; hate what is destructive, hold fast to what is good; love one another in the affection of friends; out do one another in showing honor … live in harmony with one another; do not be proud, but associate yourself with all that is humble … do not let the world squeeze you into its mold but search for what is good and acceptable and complete. This is the will of our Creator."

I Corinthians 13
"Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful – it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong; but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes in all things, endures all things. Love is lasting … there is faith, hope and love; but the greatest of these is love."

"And be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ has forgiven you and be subject to one another out of reverence to God."

MUSIC:

Nancy and Jimmy – jointly (at pulpit)

CHARGE TO THE PEOPLE PRESENT – Jimmy

"Beloved in Christ, you have gathered here in the sight of God to witness the pledge of Larry and Jim to join together in Holy Union. They have been called to be visible signs to one another of God’s love and for all people in Jesus Christ; and they now publicly proclaim their acceptance of that call. By your presence here, you accept responsibility for helping them, for encouraging them in their relationship with each other, and in Jesus Christ. You are called to rejoice with them in their happiness, to help them when they have trouble, to remember them regularly in your prayers, and in all things to offer them your love and support as the Body of Christ."

[Jim and Larry stand before ministers]

CHARGE TO THE COUPLE – Nancy

Jim and Larry, the covenant you are about to make with one another is intended to join you together in a relationship so intimate and personal that it profoundly affects your whole being. It offers you the hope and the promise of a love that is true and mature. But to attain such a love, you will have to commit yourselves to each other freely, without reserve, and gladly for the sake of a richer and deeper love together.

Love recognizes and affirms the godliness of each other, the creative spirit in each other. It ties together with a bond of mutual trust and understanding. Commitment does not burden or bind. Commitment offers the freedom to celebrate your individuality with all its happiness, joy, exuberance, and wonder. It brings the freedom to celebrate your participation in a world rich with a positive future of dreams. Today, your separate lives, with their individual memories, desires and hopes, are merged into one.

Although you will be sharing one life, never forget you are two separate people. Cherish and affirm your differences, love each other, keep your commitment primary. Together you will laugh and cry, be happy and angry, share and grow. Grow, sometimes together, sometimes separately. Love and life are always changing, always new. If you will ensure a lasting, healthy relationship, always value each other. And most importantly, to attain to such a loving relationship, you must each give yourself in faith and obedience to God who is the source and nurturer of all love."

"Do you understand this commitment to each other, and will you bring to this new life, each for the sake and fulfillment of the other, the best that you have??" [Please respond: "We do."]

"Then trusting in the Holy Spirit to sustain you, make the commitment to which God has called you."

THE INTENTIONS – (Nancy)

NANCY Jim and Larry, you are here before us, your family and friends, to affirm your choice that you have made of each other as a life’s mate.

NANCY [To Jim]

Jim, do you find within you a special love for Larry, that convinces you that you want to spend the rest of your lives together?" [Response: "I do."]

"Are you willing to love Larry in his unique fullness and to take the risk and to accept the vulnerability of that love again and again?" [Response: "I am."]

"Do you also find within yourself the courage and conviction to resist the many deaths by which love can die?" [Response: "I do."]

NANCY [To Larry]

Larry, do you find within you a special love for Jim, that convinces you that you want to spend the rest of your lives together?" [Response: "I do."]

"Are you willing to love Jim in his unique fullness and to take the risk and to accept the vulnerability of that love again and again?" [Response: "I am."]

"Do you also find within yourself the courage and conviction to resist the many deaths by which love can die?" [Response: "I do."]

THE VOWS – NANCY to Larry & Jim

To symbolize your joining of journeys, I ask you now to face one another and, joining your hands, to make your vows:

Jim: "As God has made a covenant with us in Christ, so do I make this covenant with you. I, Jim now take you Larry, to be my Life Partner, to laugh with you in joy, to grieve with you in sorrow, to grow with you in love, to be faithful to you alone, as long as we both shall live."

"And now, to you and to God, I make this solemn vow and promise."

Larry: "As God has made a covenant with us in Christ, so do I make this covenant with you. I, Larry now take you Jim, to be my Life Partner, to laugh with you in joy, to grieve with you in sorrow, to grow with you in love, to be faithful to you alone, as long as we both shall live."

"And now, to you and to God, I make this solemn vow and promise."

EXCHANGE OF RINGS – JIMMY to Larry & Jim

What symbols do you bring as evidence of the vows you have just made? [Response: "We bring these rings."]

The Minister takes the rings from the couple/witnesses and holding them for those gathered to see, says: "These rings mark the beginning of a life journey together, a journey filled with wonder, surprise, laughter, tears, celebration, sorrow and joy."

"These rings are circles, symbolic of that which is without beginning or end. May these rings be to each of you a sign and a seal of the promises you have made to each other today. Whenever you see this sign of your partner’s love, know that love is precious and fragile, yet strong.

Whenever you see these rings, remember all that you have pledged to each other today."

Jim, you will now place this ring on Larry’s left hand and holding the ring there, please say after me: "With this ring, I offer you my love, I offer my strength, I offer my support, I offer my loyalty, I offer my faith, I offer my hope . . . that in all the changing circumstances of life, we shall always live together in love."

"Receive and wear this ring as a sign of the covenant we have made here today in the sight of God and in the presence of our friends."

Larry, you will now place this ring on Jim’s left hand and holding the ring there, please say after me:"

"With this ring, I offer you my love, I offer my strength, I offer my support, I offer my loyalty, I offer my faith, I offer my hope . . . that in all the changing circumstances of life, we shall always live together in love."

"Receive and wear this ring as a sign of the covenant we have made here today in the sight of God and in the presence of our friends."

After exchanging RINGS, each take an outer candle and together light the inner (center) candle.

Minister’s Candlelighting Reflection – JIMMY

Somewhere, sometime on the human journey there comes a moment of profound hope, a moment of grace. This is such a moment. Because time takes us all where we choose to go AND where we do not choose to go, things will not always be as they are today. Wherever time takes you, we give you these three candles and three cautions in the hope that they may help you keep your love as warm and life-giving as light itself.

The first caution is to always retain your individuality. The two outer candles, which you lit today, represent your two solitudes. You are, and you always will be, two different, distinct persons. You come from different experiences. Your separate and unique histories have shaped your convictions, your values, your sensitivities. With this unique blend of your two individualities, you have created a new light, symbolized by the inner candle. Individuality is not the enemy of unity; it is that which makes union possible. Be enriched by your differences. The outer candles are not extinguished by the lighting of the inner candle AND the inner candle only received its fire from the two outer candles. May the flame of the first candle remind you to always RETAIN YOUR INDIVIDUALITY.

The second caution is to remain friends. I know that your relationship is firmly rooted in friendship. It has its foundation in the rich environment of friendship … spending time together, exchanging ideas, discovering and exploring together a world of shared interests. The health of your marriage will always be measured by the state of your friendship. May the flame of the second candle remind you to REMAIN FRIENDS.

The third caution is to give each other room to grow. The love you pledge today is a covenant love, a long suffering love. The commitment you voice here today is a covenant and not a contract. Covenants are flexible and dynamic, not static or carved in stone. You will not always be who or where you are today. You will grow and change.

May the flame of the third candle remind you to GIVE EACH OTHER ROOM TO GROW.

To preserve love as light, to resist the many deaths by which love can die may be as simple and as challenging as this: retain your individuality, remain friends, and remember to give each other room to grow.

MUSIC -

COMMUNION – MUSIC Communion will be served to Jim & Larry. They will in turn assist Nancy and Jimmy in serving the congregation.

PRAYER OF GRACE – NANCY

"Gracious God, we thank you for the gift of life, for the gift of mutual love. We thank you for Jim and Larry and for the love and joy they find in each other. And we pray: strengthen them so that they may cherish more deeply the love they share and may be devoted to each other more completely. Grant them grace to support one another with patience, honesty, and understanding. And let your Holy Spirit so direct each one of us, that we may each look to the good of others in word and deed, and grow in grace and love through Christ. Amen."

COMMISSIONING – JIMMY
Jim and Larry, you have made a covenant in that you have committed yourselves to love each other. Explore this love well with deep reverence. Explore it with joy and hope and perseverance. And as you journey together, may the companionship of love and peace be yours in the name of the Creator, the Christ and the Comforter. Amen."

BENEDICTION AND DECLARATION
"May you have the courage to love each other not only as you are now, but as you are yet to be . . . with a love that is always new."

"Since you, Larry and Jim, have renewed your vows to each other before God and these witnesses, and have exchanged these symbols of your love and commitment, I now pronounce you LIFE PARTNERS."

"You may now express your love with the kiss of union."

MUSIC – Recessional