[Episcopal News Service – Windsor, U.K.] When millions of people around the world tuned in to witness and celebrate the royal wedding of Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle, they were also treated to one of the most dynamic preachers the happy couple could have chosen for their nuptials.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry, the African-American leader of the U.S.-based Episcopal Church, spoke passionately for 13 minutes about the power of love.
“The late Dr. Martin Luther King once said, and I quote: ‘We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love, and when we do that we will make of this old world a new world. For love is the only way.’
“There’s power in love. Do not underestimate it,” the presiding bishop said. “Anyone who has ever fallen in love, knows what I mean. But think about love in any form or experience of it. It actually feels good to be loved, and to express love. There is something right about it. And there’s a reason.
“Love, love is the only way. There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate. Don’t even oversentimentalize it. There’s power in love. If you don’t believe me, think about a time when you first fell in love, the whole world seemed to center around you and your beloved.
“There’s power in love, not in just its romantic form, but any form, in any shape of love, there’s a certain sense that when you are love and you know it, when someone cares for you and you know it. When you love and you show it, it actually feels right, there’s something right about it. And there’s a reason for it. The reason has to do with the source, we were made by a power of love and our lives were meant and are meant to be lived in that love. That’s why we are here.
“Ultimately, the source of love is God himself. Where true love is found, God himself is there. … There’s power in love to help and heal when nothing else can. There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will, there’s power in love to show us the way to live.
“But love is not only about a young couple … it’s not just about a young couple we celebrate and rejoice with.”
From there, the presiding bishop referenced the Jesus Movement.
“Jesus began the most revolutionary movement in all of human history. A movement grounded in the unconditional love of God and for the world. And a movement mandating people to live and love, and in so doing, to change not only their lives, but the very life of the world itself. I’m talking about power, real power to change the world.”
He went on to talk about redemption and unselfish, sacrificial love.
“Jesus sacrificed his life for the good of the other, for the well-being of the world. For us. That’s what love is. Love is not selfish or self-centered, love can be sacrificial. And in so doing becomes redemptive. That way of unselfish, sacrificial redemptive love changes lives. And it can change this world. … Think and imagine a world where love is the way. Imagine our homes and families, where love is the way, imagine neighborhoods and communities where love is the way. Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine business and commerce when love is the way. Imagine this tired old world when love is the way … unselfish, sacrificial, redemptive. Then no child would go to bed hungry in this world ever again. When love is the way we will let justice roll down like a mighty stream and righteousness like an ever-flowing brook.” (The full sermon is here in video and text.)
“It was a royal wedding today and a young couple gave their lives to each other before God and before the people of God, not just in the chapel, but throughout the world … and I thank you for your prayers for them and for your continued prayers for them and for me and for the archbishop,” said the presiding bishop in a video interview with Episcopal News Service following the service.
It was a joy, he said, to see people around the country and the world “rejoicing and happy together.” Inside the chapel, guests could hear people on the outside applauding.
“When the couple recited their vows literally the crowd erupted in applause. This was truly something like, something like the day of Pentecost when the Good News of Jesus was proclaimed, and people heard it in many different tongues, in many different cultures, in many different ways, and that is something to rejoice in,” said Curry.
An estimated 150,000 well-wishers thronged the streets of Windsor, watching the ceremony broadcast live on their phones and large screens stationed along the whole procession route, clearly captivated by Curry’s charismatic message about Jesus’ love for the world and his words of encouragement for the newly married couple, named just before the wedding as the Duke and Duchess of Sussex.
The service began at noon local time at St. George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, 21 miles west of London. In many ways, the day’s celebrations were a typical royal display of British pageantry, but some elements, including Curry’s pivotal role and the choice of wedding cake, are a departure from tradition.
Preachers at royal weddings are usually senior clergy members in the Church of England.
The bride walked down the aisle to Eternal Source of Light Divine by G.F. Handel, sung by Welsh soprano Elin Manahan Thomas and was given to Prince Harry by his father, Prince Charles. The bride’s mother Doria Ragland looked on in tears.
Celebrity guests included Elton John, David and Victoria Beckham, George and Amal Clooney, Serena Williams and Alexis Ohanian, Carey Mulligan and Marcus Mumford, Oprah Winfrey and Idris Elba. The bride wore a dress designed by Clare Waight Keller for Givenchy. Instead of the traditional fruitcake expected at a royal wedding, the couple selected American pastry chef Claire Ptak to create a lemon elderflower cake to incorporate the bright flavors of spring, covered with buttercream and decorated with fresh flowers.
Following the service, Curry and his wife, Sharon, joined the couple and 600 other guests at St. George’s Hall in Windsor Castle for a luncheon reception hosted by Queen Elizabeth II.
St. George’s Chapel has hosted royal weddings for centuries. The chapel is known as a “royal peculiar,” a place of worship that falls directly under the jurisdiction of the British monarch, rather than a bishop.
The Rt. Rev. David Conner, chapel dean, conducted the May 19 service according to a 1966 version of the liturgy of matrimony from the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, while Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, as head of the Church of England, presided over the royal wedding and solemnized the marriage.
Markle was baptized by Welby and then confirmed in a private ceremony in March.
The queen is the supreme governor of the Church of England, which is part of the Anglican Communion, and members of the royal family are expected to be active members in the church.
Choral music at the service was performed by the choir of St. George’s Chapel, under the direction of James Vivian, the organist and master of the choristers. Other musicians included 19-year-old cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason and the Kingdom Choir, a Christian gospel group conducted by Karen Gibson. The orchestra was conducted by Christopher Warren-Green and included musicians from the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, the English Chamber Orchestra and the Philharmonia Orchestra. Soprano Elin Manahan Thomas, trumpeter David Blackadder and organist Luke Bond joined the orchestra. State trumpeters drawn from all ranks of the Band of the Household Cavalry provided ceremonial support.
Voices and trumpets combined to usher in the radiant bride to the majestic sounds of C. Hubert Parry’s well-known anthem, “I Was Glad,” composed for the coronation of Edward VII, Prince Harry’s great-great-great-grandfather.
Hymns sung during the service included Lord of All Hopefulness and Guide Me, O Thou Great Redeemer. The order of service is here.
Following the ceremony, the bride and bridegroom left Windsor Castle in an Ascot Landau carriage for a procession through the streets of Windsor.
As the streets of Windsor came alive with celebrations, the royal wedding festivities stretched far beyond Windsor Castle and its surrounding areas.
Anglican and Episcopal churches around the world, which trace their origins to the Church of England, also held local events and services to honor the happy couple.
-Matthew Davies covered the royal wedding live. Lynette Wilson is managing editor of the Episcopal News Service.