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They came from different places . . . different as much in how they lived their lives as in where they lived them.

Debbie's cousin, Laurie, cancer survivor, came from Hesperia, CA.  Better here than in fire country.  And Debbie's twin brother Jim, a lawyer, and his new bride Nooshin came from near the La Brea tar pits.  So there was some tension about back home.

Robyn was supremely thrilled that people came from Oregon.  Her sister Jan, a cardiologist from Corvallis, and Jan's son Ian, newly graduated from Santa Clara and embarking on an internship in PR with the University of Washington athletic department, and Robyn would see each other for the first time since 1993.  They were all younger back then.  We were pretty much different people on that occasion.

And there were some amazing women and men, who happen to be friends, who had been invited.  There could be . . . and will be . . . a paragraph (and more) written about each and everyone of them of them, but not here, and not now.  These people were Debbie's and Robyn's colleagues at Bloomfield College, their family at this time in our lives, their new cousins and brothers and sisters, nieces and nephews.  And there were a couple of students, one of who was taking the 'official' photos (which have not been received yet, but which will be shown when they become available), witnesses from another viewpoint...another world.  And they brought with them children from still another.  

Learning was going to take place.

And their friend Alicia was there.  Alicia is a constant presence in their lives.  Alicia is an anthropology major at Montclair State and lives in the room off the kitchen and over the unused carport.

Robyn, Debora, Laurie and Alicia arrived at the appointed time and place late, much to Robyn's dismay.  But Debora and Laurie and Alicia and Jim and Nooshin had spent the morning decorating the conference room in the Student Center to change it into a chapel.  Getting dressed takes time.

And when Debora and Robyn arrived, they encountered the Reverend Todd Shumpert, chaplain of this Presbyterian college who was asked to officiate and chose to join with us in this event.  Each was asked to find a witness and Robyn asked her sister and Debbie asked for her brother.  And they went together and, after introductions all around, papers were signed, the legal document for a New Jersey civil union.  It is interesting that it comes in an envelope that says Marriage License on the outside.

    [A word:  Robyn and Debora are not presbyterian.  Debora is a quaker and Robyn is a taoist.  There had been some talk about having a quaker ceremony, but they felt they didn't know the people at the Montclair Meeting well enough to ask them to examine their commitment to one another.

    Change person:  So we asked Todd, who is our friend.  The man is an artist in his craft.  One lets an artist work in his own medium.  The words below are his script.  In places, we each had to repeat a paragraph.  I have reformatted it a bit in the interest of saving some kilobytes).  We also asked him to alternate the name order.  I do not recall noticing if he did so.  I was otherwise occupied.--editor]

And Jan and Jim returned inside, as did Todd.  Then Robyn and Debora walked a linen aisle towards the minister, who intoned in his best Presbyterian:

Let your presence be welcome, your hearts be glad.
This is the time and this is the place
to celebrate the union of Robyn and Debora.
We have come to do the things
appropriate on such an occasion:
To say important words, to confirm a covenant;
To recognize in this event the place of family, friends,
and the whole human community;
To praise God and God’s Holy Spirit;
To share laughter and joy,
And above all, to rejoice in love and all its possibilities.

Hear these words of Scripture:

God is love,
and those who abide in love, abide in God,
and God abides in them. (1 John 4:16)

We gather in the presence of God to give thanks for the gift of Holy Union, to witness the joining together of Robyn and Debora, to surround them with our prayers, and to ask God’s blessing upon them, so that they may be strengthened for their life together and nurtured in their love for God.

God created us and gave us the gift of loving, committed relationships so that we might know help and comfort, so that we might know the joy of living faithfully together in plenty and in want, in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, throughout a lifetime.

God gave us intimate companionship for the full expression of love. In this union, a covenant is made which says, "We belong to one another, and with affection and tenderness we freely give ourselves to one another."

God gave us this union for the well being of human society, for the ordering of family life, and for establishing the bonds of everlasting fidelity and commitment.  In this joining, a covenant is made which calls those it joins to a new way of life, created, ordered, and blessed by God.  This way of life must not be entered into carelessly or from selfish motives, but responsibly and prayerfully.

We rejoice that this Most Holy Union is given, blessed and sustained by God.  Therefore, let this union be held in honor by all.

Let us pray:

Creative spirit, Spirit of life,
You are greater than all, but present in each.
In this crazy world...this world of uncertainty and surprise...
where violence and pain are common...
We have reason to pause and reflect
upon the gift of human companionship...
the gift of sharing oneself with another.

We hold in our hearts today a couple
that has found happiness with each other against great odds.
They have risked sharing themselves
and have been smiled upon in return.
May they recognize their good fortune,
and do what they can to return the love they share to a hurting world.

Gracious God, you are always faithful in your love for us.
Look mercifully upon Robyn and Debora,
who have come seeking your blessing.
Let your Holy Spirit rest upon them so that, with steadfast love,
they may honor the promises they make this day.


My dear friends, you have come here together so that the Lord may seal and strengthen your love in the presence of the Church's minister and this community of friends and loved ones. In this way you will be strengthened to keep mutual and lasting faith with each other and to carry out the duties of your Most Holy Union. And so, in the presence of the community, I ask you to state your intentions.

{Robyn}, you come here freely and without reservation to affirm your covenant of love and fidelity to {Debora} and your intention to live together in a committed relationship. Will you love her, comfort her, honor and keep her, forsaking all others, and be faithful to her as long as you both shall live?

Will all who are able please stand:
I am asking all of you gathered here straight out:  Do you give your blessing to Robyn and Debora and promise to do everything in your power to uphold them in their union? And if you do, say "We Do!" loud and clear!

(We do.)

Let us pray:

Hear us, almighty and merciful God,
as Robyn and Debora give themselves to each other and to you,
that what has begun here today may be brought to completion
through your blessing.
To this end, O Lord, bless these, your children,
who are being joined to one another in a good and blessed union.
Listen to their prayers, and graciously grant them your presence
in both the daily business of their lives and in their special moments. Amen

Robyn and Debora, you have journeyed far together from that first moment of meeting to this moment of commitment.

From that first moment of "Yes" until this moment of "Yes, indeed," you have already been making promises and agreements in an informal way.

You were joining yourselves to one another in all the conversations you’ve shared – in all those sentences that were filled with vision and hope; those important talks that include, "someday" and "somehow" and "maybe;" and in the unspoken promises of the heart – all these common things, and more, are the real process of wedding.

The vows you will make are a way of saying to one another, "You know all those things we’ve promised and hoped and dreamed, well, I meant every word."  Hold hands now and face one another to make your vows.

Look at one another and remember this moment in time. Before this moment, you have been many things to one another: acquaintance, friend, companion, lover, and even teacher,
for you have learned from one another in the time since you first met. Now, you will say a few words that will take you across the threshold of life, and things will never be quite the same between you.  For after these vows you shall say to the world, "She is mine and I am hers."

(Robyn / Debora), please carefully repeat after me: (one of the following is chosen:)

In the presence of God and our community, I, One, take you, Other, to be my companion in a covenant of love and comfort, forgiveness and faithfulness; in times of ease or unease, whether we are rich or poor, in sickness and in health, as long as both shall live. This is my solemn vow.

I, One, take you, Other, to be my partner in a covenant of love to grow with you as a faithful spouse constant friend and honest companion throughout the seasons of life. I will give to you respect, patience, and support as we work side by side to achieve the things we dream of.  We will bear together whatever trouble and sorrow life may lay upon us and we will share together whatever good and joyful things life may bring us. With these words and with my heart I join with you and bind my life to yours.

What do you bring as the sign of your promise? (Rings are presented)  Let us pray: By your blessing, O God, may these rings be to Robyn and Debora symbols of unending love and faithfulness, reminding them of the covenant they have made this day. Amen.

For several thousand years, people have exchanged rings as a symbol of their love for one another and as a reminder of their vows. These bands are of value in and of themselves. But what they stand for and what they will come to mean is beyond price. The great circle of life and the unending nature of love are symbolized in these small circles you will carry on your fingers.

One, place the ring on Other’s finger and repeat after me:  I give you this ring as a sign of my vow, and with all that I am, and all that I have, I honor you.


Eternal God, without your grace, no promise is sure.
Strengthen Robyn and Debora
with patience, kindness, gentleness, and all other gifts of your Spirit,
so that they may fulfill the vows they have made.
Keep them faithful to each other and to you.
Fill them with such love and joy
that they may build a home of peace and welcome.
Guide them by your Word to serve you all their days.
Help us all, O God,
to do your will in each of our homes and lives.
Enrich us with your grace so that, supporting one another,
we may serve those in need
and hasten the coming of peace, love, and justice on earth,
through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Robyn and Debora, you have signed legal papers, you have made your solemn vows to one another other; you have confirmed your promises by the joining of hands and by the giving and receiving of rings. Therefore...before God and in the presence of these witnesses, and by the laws of this state, I declare that what you desire has come to pass!  And it is my joy and honor
to pronounce that you are now joined together in this Most Holy Union. Blessed be the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit now and forever.  Amen.

Robyn and Debora, please confirm the covenant you have just made with a kiss.

If this ceremony is supposed to be joyful,
then we have achieved that and more.
But the spirit of joy here is one blessing of many.
Another blessing is the friends and family
who have witnessed this wedding
on behalf of the larger human community.
Another blessing is the laws of this state that recognize this civil union.
But more than this, Robyn and Debora,
May God bless you and keep you;
May the sun of many days shine upon you;
May the love you have for one another grow and hold you close;
May the good true light of God guide your way together;
May your dreams come true, and when they don’t,
may new dreams arise in their place.
And long, long years from now,
may you look at one another and be able to say,
"Because of you, I have lived the life I always wanted to live.
Because of you, I have become the person I longed to be."
God bless, God bless, and God bless! Alleluia, and amen.

Then Alicia led the assembled throng in singing This Little Light of Mine, which seems appropriate for the occasion.  There should be some music. People should be allowed to sing.

And then pictures were taken and congratulations expressed.  And Robyn and Debora did what newly married people do, even if we were only civilly united . . . and wondered why there had to be a difference . . . and also wondered if they would ever have occasion to repeat this sometime before they died.

And everyone asked themselves why some people, in far off places . . . and in places not so far away . . . found this expression of love for one another to be so intolerable for them they they would deny its public expression.

Crossposted at Docudharma

Originally posted to Robyn's Perch on Sun Oct 28, 2007 at 04:28 PM PDT.

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