Monday, May 28, 2007

How do you spell "committment?"

Well, not that way. I always have to look it up, which I just did. It's TWO m's, ONE t. COMMITMENT. It's something that can seem just as hard to make as to spell. And when people get it right, it's cause for celebration.

My big fat dictionary defines commitment as "an open declaration of adherence; putting in trust, confiding in." It comes from Latin words meaning to connect. I guess that's why I think it should have TWO t's, as well as two m's. You know. Two to Tango, two to be Married. (At this rate I'll never be able to spell it right.)

My friends Cynthia and Jerry are ready to commit. Both are in their mid-fifties, and have been single for decades. This is a really big deal for both of them. They met through eHarmony about a year ago, and agreed to take things slowly and thoughtfully. Each of them has been making his/her own way (very nicely, thank you) in the world for a long time. That means each has property and income. Jerry has a large Puerto Rican family, as well as grown children from a previous marriage. Cynthia has no living blood relations at all. Her "family" member that will act as ring bearer in the wedding is Bentley, a Wheaten Terrier. There is also the rainbow of religious traditions that swirls through both their lives: Lutheran, Seventh Day Adventist, Unity, Christian Science, to name just a few.

In short, there exists the potential for a lot of boat rocking. So Cynthia and Jerry have visited a wide variety of churches. They've talked and listened to what each thought about what was presented. They've had broad ranging conversations about spiritual issues, life-purpose, and the meaning of existence. They've gone through family and partners' counseling. In the interest of Jerry's children they've consulted with financial and legal advisors and agreed on who gets what in the case of whatever and whenever. They have lived Mary Baker Eddy's advice:

"Be not in haste to take the vow "until death do us part." Consider its obligations, its responsibilities, its relations to your growth and to your influence on other lives."

On top of all this, having committed to the idea that this was something serious, a relationship to last them the rest of their lives, they decided early on to NOT let a sexual relationship cloud their judgment. They have been actively abstinent during their courtship. Very affectionate, but definitely chaste.

So why couldn't they find a minister to marry them? I mean a minister they trusted and considered a friend -- who did not require them to go through religious counseling in his/her denomination. It seems like everyone they approached had a religious agenda -- or religious qualms -- concerning this commitment of theirs. Sure they could always go to a justice of the peace, or a judge -- someone who could do it legally. But Jerry and Cynthia have put a lot of thought into the moral and spiritual aspects of their relationship, and they want to celebrate the official union in more than a perfunctory civil ceremony.

So that's what led to my becoming ordained. I am now an official minister in the Universal Life Church. I'm going to officiate at Cynthia and Jerry's wedding December 2, in Irvine. That's a long time to think about how to make it especially significant for them. I'm honored and excited.

I've been asked to "do" weddings before, and I've declined. Being a county jail chaplain does NOT give one authority to perform weddings. I've had to explain that about a hundred times. And the one day provision that the State of Massachusets provides for, so that a close family friend can officially officiate is not available in California. But I've "counseled" countless people, young and old, about this step over the last twenty years. Larry and I have maintained a marriage of .....mmmm....... almost 38 years???!!! Yikes. I guess I have some authority.

The mechanics of becoming ordained in the ULC are easy. You push some buttons on their website. Hit print. There's your certificate. You could approach marriage the same way. People do it every night in Las Vegas. But for the record, this is a commitment I'm making to the ideal of marriage, and to those who approach it with reverence and awe.

So here I am, dropping anchor at another spiritual port of call. Much more for me -- and for others -- is still in store.

PS -- I "hit the button" on the ULC website Sunday afternoon, not knowing that my friend Laura was performing a wedding ceremony at Arlington Church in Boston. She got one of those one day only Massachusetts credentials. Read all about it here.

1 comment:

Laura said...

Hi, sweetheart! you will LOVE this! I tell ya, I got the best seats in the house. I got to be two feet from them as they're bawling their eyes out and sharing such looks of love.... it was an amazing experience.

a real co-inky-dink (as Chris R. would say) that we're both doing this! be sure to blog about it!