"Now that Katherine and Andrew have given themselves to each other by solemn vows, with the joining of hands and the giving and receiving of rings, I pronounce that they are husband and wife."
Wow! Talk about being on the other side of things. I have made this pronouncement hundreds of times during my ministry, but there I stood on the other side. I was the FOB (Father of the Bride) for the firstborn and first married of my three daughters just a few days ago.
So many things went through my mind and my heart. Cementing them all together was deep and profound thanksgiving. I was and am so very thankful for Katie and Andrew, for Katie's mother, Sharon, and for her sisters Anna and Maria, for friends and family, for people who have shaped and supported this young bride and our family in so very many ways and for so very, very long, and to God who has created us, sustains us, and loves us. A wedding is a focused opportunity to be deeply and profoundly thankful, and it certainly was for Sharon and me.
I have to admit that I have always been a sucker for the movie "Father of the Bride" (and yes, I prefer the Spencer Tracy version of yore), but to be the FOB, that was a new, delightful, and humbling experience for me. It was a moment punctuating the journey of parenting that Sharon and I have made together through these decades, and I was particularly aware of the gift and responsibility throughout that journey. There are joys and there are challenges to be sure. There are other parents who have helped us to be parents too... our mothers and fathers, wise elders, fellow parents of our generation, and the wonderful parish communities that I have been privileged to serve. We have learned along the way, and I feel such solidarity with parents of every generation... those who are having their first babies and elders who smile at the mention of their great grandchildren... and with parents of extremely differing circumstances... those who have abundant support for their families and those who struggle to keep family life together.
I have found myself thinking of many different parents during these poignant wedding days for the Lemler family. There are so many memories and so many blessings. I recall people and occasions of great joy. And I also recall the parents whom I know who have suffered loss.
At Katie's wedding, her aunt and uncle were present who lost their young daughter to cancer just a few years ago. We made our trek to begin wedding preparations on the day our Greenwich community was shocked by the loss of a high school student who took his own life. I have read each day during our time of celebration about the death of parents and their children alike in Syria and Egypt. I returned from our wedding occasion to attend an event in Newtown, Connecticut, where there were parents who had lost so much and grieved so deeply nine months ago when their children suffered tragic violence. I think of my own friends who have experienced a strong sense of loss as their children suffered terrible illness, accident, addiction, or violence.
I know this. Parenting is a gift, and it also requires courage and perseverance. We do the best we can in the circumstances of our lives. We rejoice at the grace that God gives to us in times of joy, and we depend on the strength that God gives to us in the times of sorrow. We know down deep in our souls that our children are unbelievably wonderful gifts and graces... the children of our families, of our world, of our towns, of schools, of our congregations. We need to do everything we can to support and strengthen parents. We need to do everything we can to sustain and nurture children. We need to call on and rely on our Creator and remember the gifts of creative love that are essential for parents and children alike.
What a blessing. ... What a privilege. To be part of the parenting of children, whether we do that as parents, grandparents, and godparents or as adults who participate in the parenting work of a wider family or community. Where am I this day? Back in Greenwich and in an attitude of humble thanksgiving. It is a mystery... A verse of one of the hymns we sang at Katie and Andrew's wedding expresses it so well:
"For the joy of human love, brother, sister, parent, child. Friends on earth and friends above, for all gentle thoughts and mild, Lord of all, to thee we raise this our hymn of grateful praise."