Saturday, April 8, 2017


Things change, don’t they. Or we change, we change, don’t we. Not our natural aging, the evolution of our bodies from newborn to old age, that’s not what I mean, but our attitudes, opinions, what is unacceptable. Visiting with a nice older couple at the wedding rehearsal last evening, I learned that they were raised he Baptist, she Methodist. Thirty years ago one pastor gave them a difficult time, refused to officiate that mixed marriage. It came up because the groom is an Episcopalian, the bride Roman Catholic. We remembered a time when these things were significant for people, affected relationships and willingness to move forward on an attraction. I remember, because as a teen I never dated a girl who wasn’t an Episcopalian. Which meant either a girl in St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church youth group or a girl at Camp Weed, our diocesan summer camp. On the surface it sounds bigoted to me now, after all, my mother was Southern Baptist and my father Episcopal; but it wasn’t so much deliberate and conscious as it seemed like “natural selection” for me: it never especially occurred to me to look outside our group, our girls were nice, and pretty cute, and danced cheek-to-cheek with me, it was easy to fall in love, I was happy, this was where I was. But I’ve been officiating weddings for long years now, and I don’t remember many, or even any at the moment, where the couple were both Episcopalians. 

Why? does it matter? Maybe not especially. But shared history or in-common may be helpful, less to deal with and overcome as we deal with other things after the wedding, in a new marriage. I don’t know. I do see that differences between us at a larger level keep us from getting along over Time even though our going-in intentions were all positive. A nation of immigrants, America has worked fairly well for most of us, some of us, but mixing cultural, racial, national origin, religious, attitudinal, certitude, appearance, caste and class differences - - we don’t always mix well, and we don't even want to. And gradual assimilation works better than sudden massive. The mass immigration issues now facing us will take generations to work through, and I don't think they ever really will. It’s like when newcomers in a church want to change things and don’t care that our most important value is that we’ve always done it this way. Next, they’ll be wanting to change the prayerbook. Or, μη γενοιτο, exchange The Peace.

Ten years after Linda's father died, her mother remarried. It changed our family dynamics. She cautioned us before we met him, "he's not attractive," important to her. And Jim was different: an Illinois Yankee who'd left a tense home at age fourteen and eventually worked his way south and settled in Birmingham, Alabama, he wanted us around as little as possible. After he and Lucile met at the dance studio, he did start going to a local Episcopal parish with her, but he always seemed to feel uneasy about himself there. And he started spotting other "newcomers" in church, saying they "don't have the Episcopal look." I had never noticed it from that point of view, but no, matter of fact, they didn't. We like to be around and with people who are like us. Share our values, even if one of those values is valuing and welcoming people who are different, which is something I find in the Episcopal Church: Common Prayer like the Elizabethan Settlement, but a total mix of Americana. A blend of inconsistencies and incompatibilities that mostly works for us even if we don't all have that Episcopal look as in guess who's coming to dinner. 

Will this catholic girl and protestant boy, well, they're almost thirty-somethings, will this new marriage work out for these folks? It will work if both of them and each of them continue to want it to work and work to make it work. The weddings I've officiated since 1983 are mostly mixed marriages. Or nominally somethings but literally nones. Americans and the national populations of the world are not doing as well with the new mixing as I hope this young couple will.        


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