Westboro Baptist folks picket
in New Hampshire

The folks from Westboro Baptist traveled to New Hampshire over the weekend to protest against the state’s new same-sex marriage law. They protested at a high school, the city hall in Concord and the offices of the Episcopal Diocese.

“Only three members of the group appeared outside Concord High School, where they were met by students, staff and members of the community.

[…]Outside the office of New Hampshire’s openly gay Episcopal bishop, police had to turn back a person armed with a squirt gun and another person got too close to one of the group members. But overall, it remained peaceful, and those who lined the sidewalks said they believe a strong message was sent back to Kansas.

‘This is a wonderful countermeasure,’ said the Rev. Peter Hey of Wesley United Methodist Church [of the counter-protestors who far outnumbered the Westboro Baptist members]. ‘I think it’s really important for people of good will to stand up and say what we believe, so my heart is very warmed.’

After protesting outside the bishop’s residence, the members of the group said they were heading home.”

Read the full article here.

It’s unclear whether or not the protestors were actually picketing Bishop Robinson’s private residence.

The new year weekend saw a number of same-sex couples wed. There’s an account of the marriage of an Episcopal priest to her partner that was presided over by Bishop Robinson below the fold.

Via email and shared with permission:

It was a glorious occasion. We had an open invitation to anyone who wanted to come, and about 170 turned up. We usually have about 25-30 for church on Sunday, to place it in context.

Ellie wrote the civil part of the ceremony, which took place at the back of the church, including (subtly tongue in cheek) the state’s commitment to uphold our marriage. We then had a grand procession, begun with children waving streamers as “The Winter Wind of the Holy Spirit”. After all, she doesn’t only come as toasty flames at Pentecost! In the same vein, we didn’t have flowers for the witnesses (aka bride’s maids and groomsmen, but wouldn’t that have been bizarre) and family. Instead Ellie blessed off-white pashminis and we draped them around the neck of each of them, in the fashion of tibetan white prayer scarves, honoring and blessing our love for them and their support of us over the years. We also had, as the cover graphic on the service leaflet, a copy of a second century symbol of the early church, two harts looking longingly at a ewer of water. The early church associated “Like as the hart desireth the waterbrooks” with the faithful catechumens yearning for baptism.

20 musical friends from all over provided the choir, along with our wonderful organist Susan Ferre, and her husband Charlie Lang on the Viola da Gamba. We used Faure’s “Cantique de Jean Racine” and Mozart’s “Ave Verum” for anthems. Old choral chestnuts needed to be the order of the day, as the choir had only 90 minutes to rehearse before the ceremony. But what splendid chestnuts they are, and beautifully performed! After our vows at the altar and the Bishop pronouncing us married, Ellie and I sang a Southern harmony hymn “We’ll never grow old” in harmony (It’s on the Anonymous 4 Southern Harmony CD). We both love to sing and it was our faithful declaration that we are married for eternity.

There was an undertone throughout, of the long wait and sacrifice needed for GLBT to finally be accepted by the church. The second reading was the one from Revelations used at funerals, with God finally wiping every tear from our eyes. And this was clearly a winter wedding from the winter of our lives, not the spring wedding of young people.

Bishop Gene Robinson preached a wonderful sermon. He started by praising St. Barnabas, Berlin for taking a chance on calling an openly partnered, lesbian Rector Ellie, followed by a second lesbian Rector, Fran Gardner. He noted that it is a challenge for us to contend with the label “That gay church” as we reach out to the community. But he also praised us for reaching out to everyone in our area, the poor, the mentally challenged, the seekers, the teens, etc. He then took back the fundamentalists’ warped interpretation of Adam and Eve, by claiming the true need of humankind for companionship, someone with whom lovingly to share our journeys.

The whole thing was a wonderful hour and a half liturgy. Those who were Episcopalians loved it, and those who weren’t experienced an opportunity to experience Christianity in action, in a different way than they see in the Media.

One of the joys of living in a small town is that all involved with this event are our friends, or at least know of us. Some barely know us, but told us they came to show their support for the new gay marriage law in New Hampshire. Friends catered the food. Friends decorated the church hall. Fran Gardner spent 25 hours putting together the 23 page worship leaflet after Ellie and the Bishop fashioned the liturgy. The organist spent enormous time on the music and gathering the singers out of chaos into a fine ensemble. The florist who routinely provides the Sunday flowers for St. Barnabas told the Rector she was giving us white flowers for this Sunday so they could be used for the wedding as well. The check out clerk at Wal-Marts, a total stranger to me, when I got the bagels to feed the choir at 8:30 Saturday morning said “Oh, you’re getting married today. If only I weren’t working, I’d be there!”

Ellie has always told me that a sacrament is powerful in part because it upholds and blesses before God a Holy reality that already exists. There is an advantage to marrying after 19 years. The truth of our love, and the truth of our blessed “company of strangers” who have become fast friends over the years, has become highly potent and sweet over all that time.

I rejoice on behalf of all of you, as well as for us, that there is a “sweet, sweet Spirit” blowing in our church and in our world. And if it is perhaps a cold winter wind–still, how bracing, crisp and fresh. God bless us, everyone!

Betsy Hess

Berlin, NH

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