Context: remarks made by me at the fifth of eight “movements” in the wedding ceremony that married me and Kim Boyes, November 12, 2016, at Southminster-Steinhauer United Church
Nine years ago when I turned 50, I created a blog, although the only person I ever shared it with was my therapist. It gathered up photos and snippets of things I had written over the years. In creating it, I was trying to figure out what had gone wrong in my life.
This was the winter of 2007. I was single again and struggling to find a path forward.
I called one of the essays on the blog “a failure to communicate.” As a child, I often struggled to find words in the face of difficulties. In school, we weren’t taught to name and understand emotions. Come to think of it, I don’t remember being taught much of anything in school.
Then in adulthood, the debates I wanted to participate in often seemed like shouting matches between deaf people.
Finally, in my first marriage, my ex-wife and I couldn’t agree on what would be an acceptable way to deal with problems.
Despite the frustration and sadness revealed in that blog, I felt liberated that winter. The summer before, I had experienced a breakthrough of grief and acceptance even if it had left me alone and bereft.
Then in the spring of 2007, things changed again. My father, the Rev. James Clare Kellogg, died. I wrote a eulogy for his funeral; and in that eulogy, I found myself declaring my own call to ministry.
In the face of my frustrations about communication, I decided to become a preacher — someone who is charged to talk every week about the blessings and trials of a community while reflecting on inscrutable ancient texts.
I also decided to become a pastor, someone who is given the privilege to walk with people in joy and despair and to offer them a word of hope in the face of the impenetrable mysteries of life.
Looking back, my decision to become a minister seems like a case of jumping out of the frying pan and into the fire. But despite the challenges of the role, I am grateful I made this decision.
I often preach that the only place where we can experience grace and love is reality. Unfortunately, we can’t accept the things we like without also accepting the things we dislike.
For me, a tough reality on this night of celebration is that this is also the week that Donald J. Trump became President-Elect of the United States.
In the looming disaster of a Trump presidency, I see a lot of what I fear about this moment. In the face of growing human diversity, I fear racism and ethnic cleansing. In the face of evolving sex and gender roles, I fear sexism and domestic violence. In the face of climate change, I fear global paralysis. In the face of nationalism, tribalism, and religious fundamentalism, I fear more war. In the face of our need to discuss and organize around these matters, I fear censorship and repression.
And so, we have many challenges.
But this ceremony represents the other side of reality. Tonight, we are celebrating community, inclusion, and truth. We are focusing on faith, hope and love. And we are singing, dancing, and sharing our love for one another.
Tonight, we have made vows to uphold sacred values in family and neighbourhood; in nation and world; in good times and in bad; and in sickness and in health, until death do us part.
There are no easy solutions. But I am sure they will include all the work of lovers and friends, of spouses and families, and of churches and neighborhoods. This is the joyful work of each of us: to reach out with compassion to one another; to include people of all backgrounds and perspectives; to mourn and celebrate together; to work for justice and equality; and to remember our reliance on the source of Love we call God.
Those who preach fear and hate rip apart the human fabric. Those who preach hope and love try to mend that fabric. Tonight as we weave more threads into the rainbow of human love, let us remember that an injury to one is an injury to all; and that a blessing to one is a blessing to all.
I am glad that Kim and I chose to sing a lot music this evening. Thank you to everyone for coming to sing and celebrate with us. And we owe a special debt of gratitude to the musicians — Chris, Janet, Pam, Dawn, and Deb.
Next Sunday on November 20, Kim and I will sing in a concert of The Edmonton Metropolitan Chorus. All the pieces are by the 18th Century German-English composer Handel, and the one that has been going through my mind this week ends with the phrase, “So Love was crowned. But music won the cause.”
I love this chorus from Alexander’s Feast. It is based on an ode to St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music, and written by poet John Dryden. I agree with Dryden. Love will be crowned, and music will help win the cause.
What can we do in the face of things like the U.S. election? I pray for an upsurge of creativity, community-building and activism by young people here and around the world. I also am sure that every act of truth, compassion, and beauty strengthens the rainbow coalition of love.
Come what may, we can always sing, dance, and care for one another.
In the face of darkness, let there be light. In the face of fear, let there be hope. In the face of anger, let there be music.
This week, dark shadows loom. But love is always here to illumine the pathway home.
Love trumps hate. And music, music always wins the cause.
May it be so.