Monday, March 24, 2014

Equality Comes to Michigan -- Part 2: Arriving in Washtenaw and Starting the Day

I arrived at the Washtenaw County Clerk's office about 9:05, and licenses were to begin being issued at 9:00 a.m., so I was a tad late.  The crowd was packed into the building, and a few people were milling outside, but the line wasn't yet out the doors.  I walked in and heard a gentleman with a clipboard telling a couple where they should go and what they should do.  I approached him and said, "I'm clergy.  Where do I go?"  He said, "There's a room downstairs.  The stairs are over there.  And thank you for being here!"  I headed down stairs and asked someone downstairs where I was to go.  They told me the clergy were all in the back corner of the room ahead.  I wove my way through the crowd, and saw the Rev. Mark Evens, who is very tall, and knew I was in the right area.  I tossed my coat on a table that had a bunch of coats, and greeted Mark (who had to depart early) and the Rev. Gail Geisenhainer and the Rev. Tom Schade.  I didn't yet really realize what was going on, but the first wedding of the day at that site was being performed by Judge Judy Levy, and she was giving it all due honor, taking her time to craft a really beautiful ceremony, that I was too breathless and excited to really pay attention to, to my fault.  Later in the day, she came over beside me to get her papers in order, and I learned that the ceremony she used was one she adapted from her own wedding ceremony.  She's a brand new judge, having only been finally confirmed ten days before.  In fact, I had met her a few weeks ago, when she was not yet "Judge Judy" when I went to hear the court case with the Hanover-Horton High School GSA, and Judge Friedman introduced us to her as she happened by.  My biggest regret of the day is that I didn't listen more intently and reverently, because I was anxious to get started. I was in too much of a social justice mode and not yet really in a worshipful spiritual mode.  And while we were doing the work of justice that day, it was really not about that.  It was about weddings, about love, and about these incredible couples and their relationships and lives and families.  It took me a little while to really let that sink in and understand it at a deep level.  I get the social justice stuff quickly and intuitively.  Gail helped me to see, by witnessing her and listening to her, that this was sacred space

After the ceremony was done, and a lot of cheering happened and photographs were taken by all the press and onlookers, someone made an announcement explaining the basic process.  You got a number, when your number was called you could go up and apply for your license.  When you got your license, you should come back down here, and clergy would be at the tables along the walls ready to perform ceremonies.  There were about twenty clergy in the room scrambling to find places at the table as the room emptied out a bit.  After a while, one of the Ann Arbor members came along with their Standing on the Side of Love banner, wondering where we might put it.  We decided to lay it out on the table like a table cloth, and the other ministers sharing the table with us didn't seem to mind.  Tom Schade laid his stole out in front of me to create a little sacred space.  He had offered to lend it to me, and it's his only stole, but he and I had both donned our collars for the occasion instead.  I turned on the chalice app on my tablet. A lot of members of the Ann Arbor church were there to witness and celebrate and form the Beloved Community for the members and friends Gail would be marrying that day.  Two of them, Kathy and John McLean, had been members of the Marquette, Michigan congregation back when I was a student minister up there.  Their daughter is in seminary preparing for the UU ministry, and Kathy has been making her stoles.  She had just finished a rainbow stole for her daughter, and had brought it along for the day so that it could soak up the energy of the day.  Although I was content without a stole, and could've worn Tom's, I offered to wear Kathy's daughter's it so that it would be even more a part of the day, and Kathy happily lent it to me. Honestly, it was the most beautiful rainbow stole I've seen, and I was really proud to wear it for her.  Kathy and John and the other Ann Arbor UUs were amazing that day -- witnessing and celebrating and helping.  They were the congregation, made visible and present for each and every wedding. 

As we settled into place, it wasn't long before couples with licenses started entering the room. 

Photo by Annette Bowman

No comments: