In the midst of the California Proposition 8 campaign which would deny marriage equality to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, First Church took a Sunday morning to celebrate the relationships of same-gender couples.
Here is the story from October 19, 2008.
On October 19, 2008, First Congregational Church of Berkeley, United Church of Christ, celebrated the weddings of same-gender couples who have been able to marry since it became legal in the state of California. Eighteen couples took part in the blessing, some who are members of the congregation and others from the larger community. A widespread invitation had gone out to welcome couples to come and have their weddings blessed by a faith community, regardless of their denomination or faith tradition.
The couples stood in the chancel to receive red roses and introduced themselves. They were greeted with sustained applause and a standing ovation. Then they moved down the center aisle into the middle of the congregation to receive a blessing from the whole group led by Senior Minister Patricia de Jong.
The Oakland East Bay Gay Men?s Chorus sang several songs during the service and Music Director Larry Marietta and pianist Amy Hiestand played several familiar wedding pieces during the prelude and postlude.
Minister of Art and Communication Phil Porter joined Pat for a humorous recounting of the story of the wedding at Cana. Listen to this scriptual enactment of Jesus?s first miracle. Then they shared their reflections on marriage, weddings, and the new ability of same-gender couples to be legally married. Listen to Pat and Phil?s sermon.
Pat has been doing same-gender weddings since 1984, but she spoke of her feelings when she signed her first marriage certificate for a gay couple. ?It wasn?t until the very moment that they handed me the piece of paper to sign my name that I realized that it was an amazing moment of transformation.?
Phil reflected on the long lines of couples that came to City Hall when San Francisco first started issuing marriage certificates. ?It is such a deep desire within us to have our relationships honored in community. Why shouldn?t that opportunity be available to all of God?s children?"
A three-tiered wedding cake with orange and yellow flowers was served after the service.
First Church also voted in a congregational meeting in September to oppose Proposition 8, which would amend the constitution to make marriage between same-sex couples illegal. Under the direction of the congregation?s Marriage Equality Ministry Team phone banks were organized and No on Prop 8 materials were distributed.