LITURGIA: Lo que se escucha Y lo que se ve. / LITURGY: What is heard AND What is seen.

LITURGY:  What is heard AND What is seen.

The Rev. Thaddeus Bennett

 In preparing for the pre-General Convention Synod meetings, where the SCLM will make presentations about their Report, presenters for The Blessings Project met to share materials, resources and to train for those presentations.  We all agreed that one key piece of the presentation had to be for the Deputies and Bishops to experience the proposed, trial liturgy.  Thus, we practiced officiating at the liturgy and giving each other feedback and insights about its power.

One (of many) amazing insights became apparent:  The power of the presence of “Presenters” and what they do and where they stand.  First let me explain about Presenters.  In the proposed, trial liturgy, as well as in the preparation for the couple leading up to the service, there is an option to have Presenters – people chosen by the couple to stand with them and “present them to the community for this blessing.”  In our research leading up to the SCLM’s Report, we discovered that a number of congregations already do this.  The “Presenters” may be members of the congregation who have walked with the couple as they prepared for the liturgy; they may be family or friends who have supported and will support the couple in special ways; they may be parents or members of the wedding party.  However, the key is that they have a unique role in the liturgy:  They have a more active role in the liturgy, they present the couple, they speak and proclaim their care and support for the couple and for their relationship.

During the practice sessions we observed one set of “Presenters” standing to the side, one by each member of the couple and from there they spoke their words of support.  In another practice session, the “Presenters” were also by their side, but when the time came to speak their words of support, they stepped up to the couple, put their hand on a shoulder, spoke their words and remained there while the couple spoke their own words of consent to one another.  There was a wonderful power to “the outward and visible sign” that the couple were supported by a community – represented by the words and actions of the Presenters.

The proposed, trial liturgy suggests that a congregation might consider the option of Presenters for all couples using any liturgy.  It also makes clear that if Presenters are used, they must be used for both same-gender and different-gender couples. 

What actions (beyond the “We will” when asked if they will support the couple) have you found in such liturgies (that join any couple, same or different-gender) that convey the sense that not only is God acting here, not only is the couple making a commitment but that the community is also making a visible and present commitment?

LITURGIA: Lo que se escucha Y lo que se ve.

Rev. Thaddeus Bennett

 En preparación para las reuniones de Sínodos pre- Convención General, donde la SCLM hará presentaciones acerca de su inf0orme, presentadores del Proyecto de la Bendiciones se reúnen para compartir materiales, recursos y para entrenar  para esas presentaciones.  Todos estuvimos de acuerdo que una parte clave de esta presentación debe ser para que los Diputados y Obispos experimenten la propuesta liturgia de ensayo.  Así, practicamos el oficiar en la liturgia, dándonos a cada uno retroalimentación y reflexiones acerca de su poder o energía.

 Una (de muchas) reflexiones maravillosas se hizo aparente: El poder de la presencia de los ” Presentadores” y lo que ellos hacen y cuál es su posición.  Primero, permítanme explicarles acerca de los presentadores.  En la liturgia propuesta de ensayo, así como también en la preparación para la pareja que precede al servicio, hay una opción para tener presentadores- personas escogidas por la pareja para pararse con ellos y ” presentarlos ante la comunidad para la bendición”.  En nuestra investigación que llevó al informe de la SCLM, hemos descubierto que un número de congregaciones ya hacen esto.  Los ” Presentadores” pueden ser miembros de la congregación quienes han peregrinado con la pareja en la preparación para la liturgia; pueden ser familiares o amigos quienes los han apoyado y apoyaran a la pareja de manera especial; pueden ser los padres o miembros del cortejo nupcial.  De todas maneras, presentan a la pareja, ellos hablan y proclaman su cuidado y apoyo para con la pareja y su relación.

 Durante la sesiones de prácticas, hemos observado a una pareja de ” Presentadores” parados al lado, uno al lado de cada miembro de la pareja y desde esa posición, ellos pronunciaron sus palabras de apoyo.  En otra sesión de pract6ica, los ” Presentadores” estaban también parados al lado de la pareja, pero cuando llego el momento de decir sus palabras de apoyo, se pararon de frente a la pareja, pusieron sus manos en un hombro, dijeron sus palabras de apoyo, y se quedaron allí mientras la pareja dijeron sus palabras de consentimiento mutuo.  Hubo una energía maravillosa del ” signo externo y visible” que la pareja está siendo apoyada por la comunidad- representado por las palabras y acciones de los Presentadores.

 La propuesta liturgia de ensayo o prueba, sugiere que una congregación pueda considerar la opción de Presentadores para todas las parejas, utilizando cualquier liturgia.  Esto también aclara que si se usa un Presentador, estos deben ser usados tanto para parejas del mismo género como para parejas de géneros opuestos.

 Que acciones (además del ” Así lo haremos: cuando se les pregunta si apoyarán la pareja) ha encontrado usted en dichas liturgias (que unen a cualquier pareja de igual o géneros opuestos) que presenta el sentido que no solo Dios está actuando allí, que no solo la pareja está haciendo el compromiso, sino que la comunidad está haciendo un compromiso presente y visible?

About Thad Bennett
Educational consultant to the SCLM's Blessings Project

4 Responses to LITURGIA: Lo que se escucha Y lo que se ve. / LITURGY: What is heard AND What is seen.

  1. I’m sorry to say this is one element in the proposals that has troubled me from the outset. I am certainly not against expressions of support from the congregation and family, such as exist in the extant rites, but I feel very strongly that the shift in emphasis away from the commitment of the couple themselves is problematical. The most powerful way to express this, as I have suggested in my own writing on the subject, is for the couple to ask the assembly, rather than having the “officiant” do so, when asking for support. I do not know if that is part of the proposed liturgy, but to me that seems a more effective way of emphasizing both the essential element of the rite — the commitment of the couple — and their own role in asking for the support of the community.

  2. Andy Jones says:

    Hello Thad. I am curious. When I participated in the gathering in Atlanta we were told that the SCLM was being very intentional about creating a blessing and not creating a marriage liturgy. In your second paragraph you state, with regard to presenters, “they may be parents or members of the wedding party.” Does that represent a shift in the aim and intent of the SCLM?

    Andy Jones
    C4 Diocese of Milwaukee

  3. Thad Bennett says:

    Andy, Thanks and GREAT question. The answer is, “NO, nothing has changed.” When I wrote that paragraph I had in mind the congregations that were already doing this “presenters” idea and they were doing it in the context of a different-gender marriage. But, I can see where my wording did not convey that context.
    Thanks for asking and helping me and us to stay clear that this is a BLESSING LITURGY and not a marriage liturgy.
    Thad

  4. Thad –

    I can’t recall whether I mentioned to you at some point that Bob Pingpank and I were married legally in the Trinity College (Hartford) Chapel in June of 2009 at our age 72. A UCC pastor (a college alumnus) led the rite, and two Episcopal priests assisted. The Service was sent well ahead of time to certain diocesan staff members, who made no comment. It’s available via a link on the home page of our http://www.nolan-pingpank.com .

    Our Florida attorney had advised us to marry as long as we were going to CT for our class’s 50th reunion. The event morphed from a J.P. leading the outdoor formalities to a Chapel Service that would not conflict with my diocese’s (CT) regulations. I have had a few health crises in recent years, and our lawyer was aware of some of my relatives-from-hell who might try to interfere with our intentions, if Bob were to survive me. Although our marriage is not recognized in Florida, our home (within a “continuing care retirement community”), the marriage certificate would be “persuasive” in court.

    In May of 2012 we’ll be 75, and in Sept. we’ll celebrate 57 years together – since we were 18!

    We sent no invitations to our marriage service, but about 70 from all aspects of our lives showed up (including a retired bishop and his wife). There were no gifts; we wore ordinary suits. There was no Eucharist, because we have many Jewish friends, many of whom attended. The New York Times picked it up as did the Hartford Courant.

    I’ve been ordained since 1963 and continue to be in good standing. Bob, too, is a cradle Episcopalian. And I remain a “retired honorary canon.”

    For those same-sex couples who believe they have sufficient reason to marry legally before their respective dioceses are ready to provide permission, there may be ways to marry legally and christianly. Sometimes one’s own Church is simply not ready to celebrate with us; our Episcopal fellowship need not diminish certain “big moments” in our lives. Bob and I are grateful to another ordained Christian for the dignity and familiarity with which he led our worship that day!

    Faithfully,

    Dick Nolan

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