Like many of you, I watched Saturday's Royal Wedding between England's Prince Harry and American actress Meghan Markle with great interest, for several reasons. First, I am familiar with the location, having visited Windsor Castle in 1974 (the queen was not in residence) as well as St. George's Chapel. At the time, I was assigned to a fighter squadron (the 92nd) assigned at RAF Bentwaters in the county of Suffolk, northeast of London in an area known as East Anglia.
Second, the service was ‘homework' for me as an Episcopal priest. The Episcopal Church USA is part of the worldwide Anglican community of some 800 million Christians. In fact, the titular head of the Anglican Church, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby married the couple; so I followed the service and lessons with professional interest.
Third, I am a fan of Ms. Markle, having seen her in a couple of Hallmark movies over the past years. And I admire Prince Harry for his Army service (including combat action in Afghanistan), as well as the charity work where he follows the footsteps of his late mother, Princess Diana.
The wedding was a grand affair, conducted inside a 700-year old chapel within the grounds of the oldest continually inhabited castle in the world. The surrounding town of Windsor, population of 32,000 was overwhelmed by a visitor count at least four times that number and nearly two billion people tuned in to their respective television networks, representing almost eighty nations.
The wedding was ground-breaking in many ways, principally because of the bride. She is an American divorcee. Eighty years ago, the marriage of a king (Edward VII) to a woman with similar background led to a constitutional crisis and abdication. She is bi-racial, which might be a first for the royal family. And she is a professional actress, a very unusual background for a member of the royals. In fact, she is perhaps better known in Canada where she starred in the hit show "Suits" for six years. Most of this is behind her now that she is the Duchess of Sussex. It is a ‘new day' for the monarchy in many ways.
But let's not downplay the role of her husband. Prince Harry, sixth in line to the throne, has been an unconventional man his entire life. While very close to his older brother William (second in line), they are very much different in personality. He and his bride have only known each other for two years or less, but they seem very much in love. Both in their mid-30s, they are mature adults.
While the wedding ceremony was traditional, there were some interesting twists which also reflect the ‘new day.' A gospel choir from southeast London performed a secular song which was very well received.
Around the world, as well as the chapel, the world was introduced to the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church USA, The Most Reverend Michael Curry. He is the 27th presiding bishop and was installed three years ago at the last General Convention. As such, he presides over the national church as well as the House of Bishops.
Bishop Curry gave a firebrand, evangelical sermon based upon the Song of Solomon 2:10-13 and 8:6-7. I don't believe that type of sermon had ever been preached before within the staid walls of St. George's Chapel. His message spoke of God's love for all; in fact, he said that God is love. In a broken world, we need to hear that message with all of its power and fury. The comments by the broadcasters and social media indicate his message and delivery were very well received.
The weather for the event was nothing short of spectacular. English weather can be so depressing much of the time, trust me; but not last Saturday. The sky was blue and any clouds were an ‘endangered species' – very unusual and a good omen.
From the Songs of Solomon: "Set me a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord. Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it." Amen.