For folks in the United States where same gender loving marriage was affirmed last week by the Supreme Court, a book I published with Dr. Leanne McCall Tigert for Pilgrim Press, Cleveland, Ohio, (2010) may be of assistance.
All Whom God Has Joined: Resources for Clergy and Same-Gender Loving Couples provides a history of marriage, addresses local congregational concerns and offers practical guidance in pre-marital counseling and ceremony planning. An anthology of new ceremony resources in diverse styles is balanced by a chapter on adaptation of traditional marriage ceremonies.
There are also a range of materials which are unique to the “newness” of this religious and social situation such as these:
Prayer of exclusion, inclusion and forgiveness
(Refers to Matthew 25)
Gracious and Holy One, secure in the covenant you have made in our hearts, we place these decisions in the light of your love, remembering that you told a parable about the inclusion and exclusion of those who expected to attend a wedding.
There are people who are part of our families or past histories (name them, if desired) whom we choose not to invite to the celebration of our wedding because their opinions damage the sacredness of this occasion. We pray that in years to come there may be healing and reconciliation that seems like a miracle now. We make this choice not in anger but in wisdom. We mourn their absence and the absence of others (name their children, spouses, if desired) who can not be present because of their attitudes.
There are people (name them, if desired) whom we are including even though they may not accept the invitation to our wedding. We are saddened by their hesitation in love but wish to offer them this responsibility. We will rejoice in their presence, respect their absence and trust their courtesy.
Precious Savior and only Judge of us all, we offer our forgiveness of people, churches, schools, groups, (name them, if desired) from whom we have experienced intolerance, cruelty or abuse. What they have said and done is not acceptable, but we release ourselves from their continuing power for hurt and harm in our lives. We go forward unencumbered by the burden of hate they now must carry alone, until such a time as they may relinquish it to your grace and conversion. So lightened, we rejoice and return to the holy banquet which is the planning of our wedding. Amen
Prayer for those who choose not to get married
(Refers to Genesis 1)
God, we celebrate Name and Name’s love and give thanks for their shared __ years together. For one another they have been … personalize — handball competitors, caregivers, partners in home and work, parents of _______, confidants, etc. … We rejoice in their relationship. Contemporary marriage is not a model they admire or desire, even though it is now possible. Bless their decision to continue with the life of mutuality and tenderness they have fashioned in their community of support and in your eyes. May it be that — in the evening and the morning of every ordinary day and in the evening and morning of their last days — they truly echo your creative blessing, “This is good.” Amen
Words of welcome for our friends who are unsure but willing to learn …
(verbal or printed in program)
We extend a special welcome to family members, childhood friends, and work colleagues who are new to a wedding context in which the couple are two men/women. We know how easy it would have been for you to make an excuse and send a gift rather than risk coming to this celebration. We are so glad that you came. In fact, of all our guests, we are most deeply touched by your presence supporting us today.
We assure you: your orientation is not going to stand out. You won’t hear political speeches or be held responsible for intolerances of the past. You are not going to stare offensively at the benediction kiss or couples dancing. You are not going to say something stupid (at least not until after a few toasts). You are going to be moved by our ceremony and have a great time at our party. Our love for one another and for you is so deep it will absorb any awkwardness, and a blessing will rest on your own needs for tenderness, commitment to relationship, and willingness to be open to all God’s children.
Ring liturgy introduction expanded to adapt to long-term relationship
The ring has long been a symbol of marriage, for, as the ring is a circle without end, it is the wish and hope of all that your marriage will endure, summer and autumn, winter and spring, through all the cycles of human life. These rings have been worn by you in wonderful days and sad ones. They are shiny with work and applause, dish soap and dinners and dog fur. Yet you take them off and put them on again today with new and special celebration.
Prayer for anxious clergy on a first time celebrating a same gender loving ceremony … or God, help this old dog learn to be a new wineskin!
God, bless my words, my advice (and my sanctuary) on the occasion of this first marriage of a same-gender-loving couple. Help me to be honest with the tangle of my motivations so that I can help Name and Name be honest with theirs. Give grace to the liturgy of love we shape together. Help me to protect them from hurtful comments by members of the congregation, and yet to let down my own defensiveness so I don’t miss genuine questions and opportunities to open hearts and minds. Forgive me all the times I will goof and forgive me the pride that wants my performance to be perfect. Guide me as I help Name and Name relate to family and friends, understand marriage as far more than a bundle of benefits that has been too long withheld, and plan a great party! Amen
The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, Ninth Episcopal Bishop of the Diocese of New Hampshire—and the book’s foreword writer—says: “Anyone looking to construct a ceremony of union that will express her or his deep commitment to another will find this book comforting and supportive, as well as practical and helpful. I’m delighted to commend it to those considering such a ceremony and to those who counsel them.”
The Rev. Dr. Leanne McCall Tigert and Rev. Maren C. Tirabassi are also the co-authors of Transgendering Faith — Identity, Spirituality and Sexuality.