Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Pilgrimage, Part I

June 10, 2008

Dear Pastor _____:

My partner and I are members of Lyndale Congregational United Church of Christ, in Minneapolis, MN. Our pastor is Don Portwood. He may recently have called and left a message for you. We have been members of Lyndale UCC since 1994.

We will have been together in a committed relationship for 16 years this August. We held a commitment ceremony in 1995, which about 120 immediate and extended family and friends witnessed and participated in.

In light of the recent California Supreme Court ruling, we feel moved to travel to California to get legally married. For us this is a statement of the level and permanence of the commitment we feel toward each other; our belief in the dignity and sanctity of our relationship; our desire to participate in and contribute to the larger society on an equal basis with everyone else; and our desire to benefit from the legal protections -- for us and for our foster son -- that accrue from legal marriage.

We realize that given the existence of a DOMA law in Minnesota, a marriage contracted in California may not receive legal recognition in the state where we reside. However, we believe that the DOMA laws violate the "good faith clause" of the constitution, and we believe it is only a matter of time until those laws are challenged and found unconstitutional. We want to move forward with this, in faith that fairness will ultimately prevail. We are aware that by taking this step, we might even be able to participate in the process of eventually achieving marriage equality here in Minnesota and elsewhere.

I am contacting you because my brother lives in _____, and we will be staying with him when we travel to California to have a legal ceremony performed.

I've already reviewed your "weddings and unions" guidelines on _____ Church's web site.

According to the web site, the fee includes the services of a wedding facilitator, an organist, a custodian, candles and "Carillon bell pealing after the ceremony," in addition to the services of the minister and the use of the chapel and main floor area.

Here's the thing... We literally know nobody but immediate family in the _____ area. The only people showing up for the ceremony will be my partner and I, our foster son, my parents, my brothers and sisters, and my nieces and nephews (a total of 17 people tops, if everyone is able to drive down from Utah to meet us). We don't want special music. We don't need "use of the main floor for 3.5 hours." We don't need special candles or bell peals. We have been married (in our hearts) and living together for going on 16 years, and are pretty sure we don't need a wedding facilitator to go over "the human and the religious meanings of marriage and commitment" with us. We've spoken to our pastor, and he's willing to vouch for us and write a letter of recommendation in this regard! We had our "big ceremony" back in 1995 and we're really not looking to repeat that.

Literally, what we had in mind this time around was an opening and closing prayer, and a chance for me and my partner to tell each other and my family what this means to us. We would like a minister to perform the service, because for us this act will be a statement of faith. We would probably use the chapel for no longer than 30 minutes, and would be willing to use it at a time that doesn't conflict with anything else. We could even hold the ceremony somewhere else, if needed, such as at my brother's home in _____.

Your web-site clearly states that "The fees remain the same regardless of services used," but I am making a plea for mercy since it will already be stretching our budget just to get our small family to California. Given the extremely modest service we have it in our hearts to do, would $300 be an unreasonable fee?

We were hoping to hold a ceremony on or around Friday, July 25. (That date would allow some members of the family in Utah to come down and join us.) Please let me know if there's any possibility at all of accommodating us.


John D. Gustav-Wrathall
Goran V. Gustav-Wrathall


June 10, 2008

Hi John.

I'm off today, but we would be happy to work with you. As you can imagine we are having a lot of marriage requests right now......wonderful. We have certainly made accommodations for the kind of ceremony you're describing. Obviously you're not doing the regular "big wedding" thing, so if you aren't even having any music (let me know) and we therefore don't have to pay [an organist], we'd probably just charge you for the minister's services - the normal fee is $200. A little extra for custodial services would probably be asked - so the $300 fee you're asking for sounds exactly right.

Here's a couple of hitches. First, let me know what date you'd (ideally) like so I can make sure we don't have anything else going on in the church at the time. Second, we don't have any air conditioning and _____ can get awfully hot in the summer; your service will be so brief that you'd probably be OK no matter when we do it, but it would be a lot more comfortable in our sanctuary if you did morning or early evening (after 6:00) when things start to cool down. And finally, third, I happen to be out of town at that time in July. However, I have an Associate who would take good care of you, Reverend _____, if she's in town. I'll need to check with her schedule. And if she can't do it I have a number of other ministers who are members of our church I could approach.

So, given the hitches, shall we proceed?



June 11, 2008

Dear Pastor _____:

I somehow suspected this would become a busy marriage season for you. I agree, it is wonderful. I am gratified and humbled to hear of it. I occasionally hear people complain that it isn't politically advisable, it's going to cause a backlash, etc. But now that God has opened us up a way, I feel deep in my heart the urgency of making this public commitment, making this pledge for decency's sake and for love's. I believe we are participating in a great movement of the Spirit, and it shouldn't and can't and won't be stopped. Yes, it is exciting.

The hitches you describe are not hitches for us, so yes, let's proceed!

Let me know what is the best way to make our deposit. Can I send you a check?

I will need to consult with my family to see if they have a time preference, given the heat of mid-day. I would prefer a morning ceremony. But it could be that the evening, after 6:00 p.m. time slot will work best, given that family who have driven down from Utah the day before may want a day to rest. I can get back to you about this by Monday, latest, so that we can reserve an appropriate time slot.

Having made this initial wonderful contact with you, I am sad that you won't be there, but trust that, as you say, Reverend _____ will take good care of us.

As part of my morning scripture reading today, I read Ezekiel chapter 34, and it moved me to tears. Thank you for beiing a pastor in God's flock -- especially to those who have been abandoned by their shepherds.

Sincerely yours,

John Gustav-Wrathall

P.S. We definitely want July 25, if it's available. It's just a question of time -- morning or evening. We can take any time slot available that day if there are other activities in the church building.


Bill McA said...

You should think about moving your date up a day so it falls on Pioneer Day.

J G-W said...


We're committed to the 25th now, because it's literally the only day that every member of my family can make it.