“May I now present to you Hannah and Kathy Wilder!”
Kathy and I were married five weeks ago at St. Paul’s Cathedral. Our ceremony began in the late afternoon, timed so the evening light would shine softly through the stained glass windows. It was a busy day, full of appointments and preparations. Luckily, I found 15 minutes to meditate and ground myself. Just before my hair appointment, I paused and pulled off my socks and shoes and planted my feet on the grassy patch just outside the salon. I went through a breathing meditation with a friend. It helped me feel calm, focused and grounded.
As I entered the Cathedral at the start of the ceremony, I was grateful for the journey that brought us to this point. The day I had been anticipating for over a year was finally here. I felt ready to savor it as it unfolded. I met my beloved and walked down the aisle with her and my ten-year-old son.
“We have come together today to ask for God’s blessing on Hannah and Kathy…”
As we walked the long center aisle, I felt the presence of our family and friends gathered there to witness and celebrate our union.
I stood by Kathy in front of the Rev. Canon Allisyn Thomas and listened as the entrance song faded away. Then Allisyn raised her hand and began speaking the words of the liturgy we had lovingly chosen for this most important ceremony. Over months of creating and revising our liturgy, the words had become intimately familiar to me.
But as she began speaking, I felt as though I knew what the earth must have felt when God spoke it into being. I was struck by the image of our priest as the conduit for something intangible, great and unfathomable as it made its way into being, into consciousness, into our realm of words and light. I felt the presence of God.
“Eternal love never fails…”
As she spoke of love, forgiveness, reconciliation and union, I was aware that our relationship was on the brink of something extraordinary. We were bringing our relationship into the Kingdom of God, where neither moth nor rust can destroy and thieves cannot break in and steal.
“for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish . . .”
When I said my vows to Kathy, I took time to savor each phrase, calling all of me to be present to my words and their meaning. In the moment, I found that speaking my vows felt as natural as waking up in the morning after a good night’s sleep, or holding your child’s hand. Nothing could be more right.
“Will you stand by them, encourage, guide and pray for them in times of trouble and distress? We will.”
About 35 friends and family surrounded us in the chancel (the front part of the church around the altar). They sat in the pews on either side of the altar and in the chairs below the organ pipes. They literally surrounded us with their presence, support and love. Three times during the ceremony, they voiced their support willingly and boldly. For that I am eternally grateful.
I was especially touched by Kathy’s mother who attended and gave her support freely and without reservation. As the only parent there, she embodied utmost approval. Her genuine joy about our marriage made it obvious that homosexuality was irrelevant to her. Kathy’s mom doesn’t just accept us; she celebrates us. And loves us.
My family? Not so much. They love me but they believe what their conservative Christian upbringing taught them: that homosexuality is a disease, a sickness and something to resist. Needless to say, they were not invited, but I felt a gaping hole where they would have been.
“‘Every man serves the good wine first; and when men have drunk freely, then the poor wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.’”
In her sermon, Allisyn spoke about Jesus’ miracle of turning water into wine. She encouraged us to reserve our best wine for one another, instead of giving each other whatever’s left at the end of the day. Wise words that have already come in handy.
“Send your Holy Spirit upon these gifts.”
We shared communion as our first act as a married couple. Kathy and I bore chalices for all who wanted to partake. Seeing the faces of loved ones come up and drink from the cup was especially powerful and intimate.
“May God enrich the life you have chosen and fulfill your hopes.”
The rest of the evening with its toasts, conversations and revelry, reinforced how much our community loves and supports us. Again Allisyn served as a spokesperson as she said in a toast, “Your St. Paul’s community loves you. We support you. We stand by you. We are proud of you.”
I wonder how many people can say that their church has explicitly voiced their approval and support of their relationship? Not too many I imagine!
When Allisyn gave that toast, I felt the whole Cathedral wrapping its arms around us. Some of the pain from the loss of my biologic family was, and is, tempered by the knowledge that St. Paul’s loves us and affirms us exactly as we are. We feel woven into the fabric of the lives of so many of you; we know where to turn for comfort, advice and friendship. Our lives are full of abundance because of St. Paul’s Cathedral and the whole diocese.
“And the blessing of God Almighty, Creator, Word and Spirit, be upon you and remain with you now and always.”
Something has changed in my relationship with Kathy. We feel more deeply connected to one another and to our community. The words of the liturgy wove a beautiful tapestry around us and the people who loved and supported us throughout this journey to marriage.
Many of those people are you, the members of St. Paul’s Cathedral. For that I cannot thank you enough. We were able to enter into this mystical, alchemical union because of you, your prayers, your identities, your coming together week after week to affirm your faith in something greater than this material world and to proclaim to the world that all are welcome at a gothic cathedral on Sixth Avenue in Hillcrest, San Diego.
And as we walk the path of life together, we look forward to sharing our love and experiences with you, come what may.
-Hannah Miller Wilder
In July 2010, Bishop Mathes gave permission for the parishes in the Diocese to celebrate and bless the relationships of same sex couples in the congregation. Hannah and Kathy are the first couple to have their ceremony at St Paul’s Cathedral. We thank Hannah for sharing her reflection of this most amazing day and we wish them both much joy in their new life together!