First United Methodist Church of Germantown (affectionately known as FUMCOG) is a Reconciling church committed to and working on social justice issues, including: Racial justice, anti-death penalty, immigration fairness, energy sustainability, economic fairness, a commitment to Haiti and to our own surrounding community, and inclusiveness for LGBTQ people. There are several gay and lesbian member couples who are wrestling with marriage now that it is legal in Pennsylvania.
However, our Eastern PA Conference has already experienced the trials and defrockings of Beth Stroud (from our church) and Frank Schaefer, as well as the complaint against many of the 50 ministers who performed a gay wedding at Arch Street United Methodist Church in 2013.
We wanted to be married. Our Bishop had recently said there would be “swift trials” if any clergy performed a gay marriage. We had three criteria in planning our wedding–be married in church, be married with our church family present, and protect our pastor from a complaint and trial. We also wanted something traditional as well as outrageous.
It became a frustrating and saddening effort to fulfill all three of our wishes. Just weeks before our ceremony, a heterosexual couple was married at FUMCOG. No problems! Yet, for us, we had to find another venue that could and would accommodate our congregation. We had to consider several scenarios and their many concomitant problems. It was trying, and resulted in a delay in choosing a date. Fortunately, our pastor came up with a marvelous plan. Just up the street was the Germantown Mennonite Church (GMC), the oldest Mennonite church in the U.S., and an independent church that was expelled from the larger Mennonite church for LGBTQ issues.
Our minister, Rev. Lorelei Toombs, arranged with Rev. Amy Yoder McLoughlin for the wedding, a joint worship service with both congregations, and a place for the reception. Thus, we changed the venue and the pastor, included our entire church family, and enabled our minister to take part.
On Dec. 28, 2014, the FUMCOG congregation met at their parking lot and marched up Germantown Ave. with our FUMCOG banner and the high-flying dove to GMC, where our “receiving line” was before the wedding!
We have been together 34 years, so we asked our 8 attendants to dance down the aisle to “Get Me To The Church On Time,” from “My Fair Lady.” It was riotous from the start, with everyone dancing and clapping. Then Barbara and Ruth marched in to Elton John’s “Your Song.” FUMCOG member Jonathan Sills sang, accompanied by Kevin O’Malia, FUMCOG’s director of music. FUMCOG Pastor Lorelei opened with a prayer. Then she placed the long red stole which she wore at her ordination over Pastor Amy’s shoulders.
This was a joyous and moving symbol that Lorelei was a “pastor in spirit.”
Each attendant spoke, recounting memories or reading poetry. Jonathan sang three soulful and romantic Irish songs. We exchanged vows by confirming our love for each other. Because we had so few family members, Rev. Amy asked our church family to support us as well. We faced the audience and the whole congregation sang “The Impossible Dream.” We walked back down the aisle married, and then scurried right back into the sanctuary for the worship service of both congregations. On this traditionally low attended holiday Sunday, it was standing room only. A large reception followed where we got to know many of our neighbors from GMC, as well as reconnecting with friends we haven’t seen in years. We were delighted that all went well. But we were also saddened because many of our own family members would not attend on their own religious grounds. Finally, we were pleased that our announcement made the New York Times and that our request, in lieu of gifts, for contributions to RMN netted over $4600!
A wedding should be a happy, joyful, and pleasant, life-long memory. Thanks to two pastors, we were able to make our day a celebration that was festive and meaningful, despite the policies of The United Methodist Church.