I met Cindy long after she had raised her children, divorced and found work that brought focus to her life. Some years after we became friends she met Joe, a doctor at a hospital where she was a volunteer. They hit it off immediately and fell in love, but were hesitant to marry because Joe was a widower with fresh memories of his wife’s long illness and Cindy had worked so hard to establish herself on her own. Eventually Cindy moved in with Joe to avoid going to old folks’ apartments. Her spirit was way too young for that yet.
At a certain point their love gave sense to marriage, so Joe contacted the Presbyterian Church where he was a member and where he and his family had gone for decades. He told the pastors that he and Cindy wanted to be married there. But the answer came back, “What would the congregation think? No, you can’t unless you and Cindy live apart for a good length of time.” They had violated the rule of “fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman or chastity in singleness.”
Joe and Cindy asked me to preside at their wedding in a ceremony to be held in the garden behind their house. After meeting with them several times, I agreed. They remember every detail of that September afternoon twelve years ago. For me, the glow they display because of their love for one other is a model for marriage. But they have had little to do with the congregation that aimed its attention on living arrangements and gossip rather than the love, commitment and partnership they shared.
Certainly Joe and Cindy’s story is another manifestation of the hurt caused by the Church’s discomfort with sexuality, which has troubled us from our New Testament beginnings to this very day. How did we go so far astray? After all, God gave us the body and called it good, as well as spirituality and the gift of our souls.
Last week Cindy passed away due to complications following heart surgery. I was asked to preside at her funeral because Joe did not want a minister from the Presbyterian congregation that had refused to affirm their love involved in pastoral care for his and Cindy’s visiting family.
When the Church denies a loving, committed couple the opportunity to marry, the amount of love in the world does not decrease; nor does the love between the partners. But the amount of love in the Church does decrease every time we turn a couple away. Cindy always wanted the Church to embrace all such loving couples, including two men or two women. For that love that is lost to us, and for Cindy, I weep.