I stopped in a church parking lot and got off the motorcycle to stretch my legs and get my bearings. A car pulled up beside me and the passenger window rolled down. The older gentleman at the wheel leaned over to speak to me.
“I’m the pastor of this church,” he said. Can I help you with anything?”
“No thanks,” I said. “I’m just taking a break.”
“I’m a retired minister, myself,” I continued. “I’m on my way to perform a wedding ceremony.”
He brightened when he realized he was talking to a colleague. We chatted and traded pedigrees. He was a preacher for an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist Church–very conservative. I told him where I was educated and confessed I was on the liberal end of the spectrum, although I chose not to reveal that I was now an atheist humanist celebrant. We were cordial and wished each other well as I glided away on the bike.
I also neglected to tell him I would be performing my first Wiccan wedding.
I reached the park and met with the wedding party and their families. They were a little stressed as most wedding participants are, but they were also pleasant and kind. The young man was tall, slender, and perhaps shy. I helped him straighten his tie and I took the opportunity to clasp his shoulders and say he was a handsome young man. The beautiful young woman had long hair and wore a simple but elegant dress. The party also included a small adorable baby girl.
It was my first Wiccan ceremony, and although I once taught World Religions in college, I had to study up on the proceedings. We conducted the ceremony by a luminescent spring.
The woman laid out a circle of small rocks around us. The father of the bride handed the young man a small knife (called an athame) as a symbolic act of passing the responsibility of protecting his daughter to the man who would be her husband. In the handfasting ritual, I wrapped a thin rope loosely around the bride and groom’s wrists. When they pulled their hands away, they held onto the ends of the rope, forming a knot in the middle. Near the end, they jumped over a broom to signify stepping into a new life.
While the baby gurgled, they offered each other their vows using words like love, community, life forces, eternity, magic, the sun, moon, land, and sea. At the end, I pronounced them married and they kissed each other.
The preacher I met earlier would be obligated to believe these proceedings were evil, which is preposterous. They are a lovely couple, joining hands to make their way in life. They value the qualities of wonder, love, and each other. They embrace the idea of making the world a better place. And they are kind and gracious.
When I was a young conservative preacher, I often said Wiccan was evil, which I see now is preposterous. I regret that I might have caused someone to feel pain from my words. I’m glad I’m in a different place where I get to participate in the formalized union of this sweet little family.