Conducting Services of Union

Prior to the legalization of marriage

During the 1990s while I served May Memorial Unitarian Universalist Society in Syracuse, I did many services of Holy Union for gay and lesbian couples.

Most of the lesbian services were small, often the couple and two friends, and had deeply painful histories that brought them to me for their wedding. There were far too many women who said their families had disowned them, or that a father would kill her if he knew she was lesbian.  I knew this was not just a figurative threat by her father, and neither did she.  I did way more preparation of the room where the ceremony was to take place to make sure their wedding was beautiful, meaningful and affirming.  I cried a lot before and after so many of those Holy Union Services.

One wedding, this one a large one with a lot of friends and family in attendance and held in the sanctuary at May Memorial.  A soloist sang, “Somewhere” during the service and I honestly do not know how I managed to finish the service.  It will remain the most powerful and impactful moment in a wedding that I ever did.

One lesbian service of Holy Union was between two teachers and held in a public venue with two men as their attendants.  If anyone peeked in, they would have thought it was a double heterosexual wedding.  At one point a balloon burst and everyone ducked and felt the terror of someone shooting at us.  Once we realized it was just a balloon, we all breathed a sigh of relief.  But the realization of what we felt and feared hit us hard.

Two of the gay weddings I did were with one of the men living with AIDS. Within six months I was doing their Memorial Services.  Those were so hard to do because I knew what was ahead, and yet they were determined to celebrate their love with beautiful wedding ceremonies.

Elizabeth Strong