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The personal blog of Frank Lesko. Award-winning writer. Non-profit entrepreneur. Activist. Religious professional. Foodie. Musician. All around curious soul and Renaissance man.

See also my professional blog: The Traveling Ecumenist.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Our Wedding Ceremony

Our Wedding Ceremony
Sunday, July 10th, 2016 - Wild Goose Festival    



1.  Opening Song

Down in the River to Pray (traditional)    

As I went down in the river to pray 
Studying about that good old way 
And who shall wear the starry crown 
Good Lord, show me the way   

Oh sisters, let’s go down 
Let’s go down, come on down 
Oh sisters, let’s go down,  
Down in the river to pray   

As I went down in the river to pray 
Studying about that good old way 
And who shall wear the robe and crown 
Good Lord, show me the way   

O brothers, let’s go down 
Let’s go down, come on down 
Oh brothers, let’s go down, 
Down in the river to pray   

As I went down in the river to pray 
Studying about that good old way 
And who shall wear the starry crown 
Good Lord, show me the way   


2. Welcome   


Good morning. I’m Frank, and I’m the groom!

I’m Andrea, and I’m the bride!

[laughter]

Andrea and I have been coming to the Wild Goose now for three years in a row. One of the first things we do, we developed a tradition. On the first day, we go down to the river, take off our shoes, and just stand there in the river.  And it has a lot of meaning to us. It’s hard to put words to it.  It’s like remembering who we are, something about ourselves, to refresh, to renew, to reenergize, it’s cleansing. And there’s something about the bare feet, in the bare earth, with the living waters around us, breathing in the mountain air, holding each other’s hand, that just takes us back to some point that reminds us who we are... and who we are to each other... and to the community.
 
So it made perfect sense to come here to the Goose to come down to the river and to start our marriage from this place. We also…
 
The ceremony will be conducted by people from a variety of faith traditions, interfaith and Christian, and we figure what better way to witness to the wholeness of the community here than through that. 
 
We just want to get started with a symbolic act of what we do on our first day at the Wild Goose.


3.  River Immersion & Cleansing   

Andrea and Frank both wash each other's feet using water and sand from the French Broad River collected that morning.

 

4. Opening Prayer

Frank and Andrea have come here today to make their commitment public and to repeat their  vows out loud and in the presence of God, community, and creation.       

Let us pray.   

     Dear God,

 As Frank and Andrea embark upon this miraculous journey, may their hearts be lifted up in joy.  May they truly see in their beloved the beauty and innocence in which you created them.  Remove from them any barriers to love. Deliver them to the brightest light where forgiveness is their constant guide and peace their constant friend.  Bless their relationship;  bless their marriage taking place today, and through them, bless the world.  Amen.   


5. Readings 

a. A Reading from the First Letter to the Corinthians   


If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self ­seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.  
 

b.  A Reading taken from Thomas Merton’s ​No Man Is an Island 

A happiness that is sought for ourselves alone can never be found:  for happiness that is diminished by being shared is not big enough to make us happy. 

Love not only prefers the good of another to my own, but it does not even compare the two. It has only one good... that of the beloved, which is, at the same time, my own. Love shares the good with another not by dividing it with him, but by identifying itself with him so that his good becomes my own.

Love seeks one thing only:  the good of the one loved. It leaves all the other secondary effects to take care of themselves. Love, therefore, is its own reward.
 

c.  "The Tale of Two Wolves" - a Cherokee Story

One evening, an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. One is evil. It is anger, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self­ pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego. The other is good. It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.”

The grandson thought about it for a moment and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
 

d. A Poem by Hafiz - a Persian Sufi Mystic


It happens  
All the time in heaven, 
And some day 
It will begin to happen 
Again on earth ­  
That men and women 
Who are married,  
And men and men 
Who are 
Lovers 
And women and women 
Who give each other
Light 
Often will get down 
On their knees 
And while so tenderly 
Holding their
Lover’s hand, 
With tears in their eyes 
Will sincerely speak, saying,  
“My dear,  
How can I be 
More loving to you; 
How can I be more 
Kind?”


6. Vows 

The time has come for Frank and Andrea to make their promises to one another,   



Frank, please repeat after me. 
     I, Frank, ask you, Andrea 
     To be my partner, my lover, my friend, and my wife 
     To have and to hold from this day forward 
     I announce and declare my intention 
     To give you my deepest sympathy and love 
     I further announce before God and those present
     That I will always seek to see the Light of Divinity within you
     And seek always to share the Light of Divinity within me
     I promise to be true to you in good times and bad 
     In sickness and in health 
     I will love you and honor you all the days of my life 
     May we do God’s work together 
     Sharing all that is good within us 
     With all those whose lives we touch 
     All that I am, I give to you 
     And all that I have, I share with you 
     Whatever the future holds, I will love you 
     And stand by you 
     As long as we both shall live 
     This is my solemn vow.    

Andrea, do you choose to grant Frank’s request that you be his wife?  (I do!)   



Andrea, repeat after me. 
     I, Andrea, ask you, Frank 
     To be my partner, my lover, my friend, and my husband 
     To have and to hold from this day forward 
     I announce and declare my intention 
     To give you my deepest sympathy and love 
     I further announce before God and those present                
     That I will always seek to see the Light of Divinity within you      
     And seek always to share the Light of Divinity within me      
     I promise to be true to you in good times and bad 
     In sickness and in health 
     I will love you and honor you all the days of my life 
     May we do God’s work together 
     Sharing all that is good within us 
     With all those whose lives we touch 
     All that I am, I give to you
     And all that I have, I share with you 
     Whatever the future holds, I will love you 
     And stand by you 
     As long as we both shall live 
     This is my solemn vow.

Frank, do you choose to grant Andrea’s request that you be her husband?  (I do!)   


7.  Song ­

All That I Am (Sebastian Temple) 

All that I am 
All that I do 
All that I’ll ever have 
I offer now to you.   

All that I dream 
All that I pray 
All that I’ll ever make 
I give to you today.   

Take and sanctify these gifts 
For your honor, Lord. 
Knowing that I love and serve you 
Is enough reward.   

All that I am 
All that I do 
All that I’ll ever have 
I offer now to you.   

Take and sanctify these gifts 
For your honor, Lord. 
Knowing that I love and serve you 
Is enough reward.   

All that I dream 
All that I pray 
All that I’ll ever make 
I give to you today.   
   

8.  Lakota Prayer

The following is a Lakota prayer.   

Frank and Andrea, please repeat together after me. 
     Teach me how to trust my heart, my mind, my intuition 
     My inner knowing, the senses of my body, 
     The blessings of my spirit. 
     Teach me to trust these things 
     So that I may enter my sacred space 
     And love beyond my fear 
     And thus walk in balance 
     With the passing of each glorious sun.


9. Exchange of Rings 


 
Please take the rings you wish to give to one another as symbols of the promises you are giving and receiving today.

Let us pray.   

     Lord,  
          Bless these rings which we bless in your name. 
          Grant that those who wear them 
          May always have a deep faith in each other. 
          May they do your will 
          And always live together 
          In peace, good will, and love. 
          We ask this through Christ our Lord. 
                                                      Amen.   

Frank, place the ring on Andrea’s finger, and repeat after me:
     Take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity 
     In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.   

Andrea, place the ring on Frank’s finger, and repeat after me. 
     Take this ring as a sign of my love and fidelity 
     In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.   

Please join hands.  Repeat together after me. 
     With this ring, I thee wed.

Now that you have stated your intentions before God, the gathered community, and all creation, we pronounce you husband and wife!   

                                                                      Kiss!
 

[Woo-hoo!]


10.  Closing Blessing & Presentation   

Let us pray.   

God, 

Out of this whole world, two souls have found each other. Just like the labyrinth, it has been a journey to this spot. Their journey back into the world shall be together.

Frank and Andrea, may your home be a place of happiness for all who enter it; a place  where the old and the young are renewed in each other’s company, a place for growing and a  place for sharing, a place for music and a place for laughter, a place for prayer and a place for  love.

May those who are nearest to you be constantly enriched by the beauty and bounty of your love for one another; may your work be a joy of your life that serves the world, and may  your days be good and long upon the Earth.

Amen.

Gathered friends, we present to you… Mr. & Mrs. Frank Lesko!

[Cheers! Yay!]


11.  Recessional Song ­ 

You Fill the Day (Joe Wise)   

You fill the day with your glory and your power.  You fill the night with your quiet and your deep love.
  
Run with your head up in the wind 
Run with your head up in the wind 
The wind 
Your head held high 
Your soul an open door 
And breathe the wind that makes you free 
And breathe the wind that makes you free   

You fill the day with your glory and your power.  You fill the night with your quiet and your deep love.   

Stand with your face up in the sun 
Stand with your face up in the sun 
The sun 
Your head held high 
Your soul an open door 
And feel the warmth that makes you free 
And feel the warmth that makes you free
You fill the day with your glory and your power.  You fill the night with your quiet and your deep love.

Lay with your face up in the rain 
Lay with your face up in the rain 
The rain 
Your head held high 
Your soul an open door 
And drink the rain that makes you free 
And drink the rain that makes you free

You fill the day with your glory and your power.  You fill the night with your quiet and your deep love.

Walk hand in hand with one you love 
Walk hand in hand with one you love 
You love 
Your head held high 
Your soul an open door 

And hold the hand that makes you free 
And hold the hand that makes you free

You fill the day with your glory and your power.  You fill the night with your quiet and your deep love.

Beloved musicians!
Wedding party consisting of ministers and pastors
of various Christian and non-Christian traditions.

Basking in the afterglow!


Our original comments from 2016:
 
We did it! Andrea and I got married at the Wild Goose Festival in Hot Springs, NC, on Sunday morning!
This has been a special place for us these past three years. We go “down in the river to pray” (our opening song!) to be refreshed, revitalized, to remember something about ourselves and what we mean to God, community and creation. The Wild Goose is a little slice of Heaven to us, a place where amidst all the brokenness of the world around us, for a short time that Biblical ideal of full unity in full diversity is realized right here on earth, and people radiate in positivity and goodwill. What better place to begin our marriage together! We are so enormously grateful.
We began with a foot washing ceremony, using sand and water from the banks to recreate that river immersion. New life, reconciliation, soul to soul. We were barefoot on the grass the whole time.
We were married by no less than seven faith leaders who all took turns co-officiating and participating in the ceremony! These ministers identify as Baptist, United Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, Non-Denominational and Interfaith, as well as Episcopal and Roman Catholic priests. It was a blessed assembly. We wanted so much for this wedding to represent the wholeness of all the people of God, and we are so grateful for their presence. We’ll be blogging about the details shortly!
Our ceremony took readings from across the faith spectrum: 1 Corinthians 13, a reading on love from Thomas Merton’s No Man Is An Island, a Cherokee tale (appropriate since we were in Cherokee ancestral lands) and a poem by a Hafiz, Muslim Sufi mystic, which has beautiful passages celebrating love between men and women, men and men and women and women. Our vows were a blend of Conversations with God (a book that has been hugely important to Andrea) with traditional Catholic/Protestant vows woven in seamlessly.
After we took vows as individuals, we recited together a Lakota prayer:
"Teach me how to trust my heart, my mind, my intuition, my inner knowing, the senses of my body, the blessings of my spirit. Teach me to trust these things so that I may enter my sacred space and love beyond my fear and thus walk in balance with the passing of each glorious sun."
- Lakota Prayer
When we found that prayer online, we were both stunned—it was perfect.
In addition to “Down in the River to Pray”, two very old favorites from my childhood arrived right on schedule, and their lyrics were also reflected in the ceremony: “All That I Am” by Sebastian Temple (who you may know as the composer of “The Prayer of St. Francis”) and “You Fill the Day” by Joe Wise. I remember those songs from my Catholic childhood, two brilliant pieces by folk pioneers, songs I have never forgotten.
A friend also “just happened to remember” that she had 20 mini bottles of bubbles in her car, so we were treated to bubbles during the closing song! That’s how this wedding came together—everything was just at the right place at the right time—Andrea’s outfit which we found a couple days before at a local store when we weren’t even looking, the local flower vender at the Festival when there had never been a flower vendor in prior years, and the readings which popped into our minds or on our laptop screens just when we needed them. For the days and weeks beforehand, we were stuck and we were unsure how this would all come together. But the day before the wedding, it all came together.
The only sadness, and it was a big one, was that family and friends could not be there, but we plan to have a reception at home in the coming months.
There are so many people to celebrate—from the musicians to the photographers to the ministers. As more pictures roll in, we’ll do that. In the meantime, I just want to take a minute to savor the moment between us. And realize that I feel ontologically different.
Pictures are still rolling in, and we’ll write more about it in the near future!

Bubbles!
Our rings and our ring bear-er!
Our invitations to guests as well as ministers who wanted to co-officiate
left strewn around the festival!
 
Comments from July 10, 2019:

Andrea and I had only a vague idea that we might get married when we drove down to Hot Springs, North Carolina, for the Wild Goose Festival in July 2016. We had been engaged since January of that year. Even as we starting putting plans together with the festival organizers, we weren’t exactly sure how this was going to go. We were working on vows literally the night before! But it all came together right on time.

In our previous comments, we talked about a few places where everything seemed fall into place. Re-reading that now, we realize that was just a short list! Friends who recorded the event, a professional photographer who just happened to be at the festival for the event, the date, the location, the guests and ministers who saw our invitations left scattered around the festival and responded, our musician friends who were super busy organizing all the festival musicians but still made time for us on short notice, the beloved stuffed animal who was bravely lent to us by total strangers to be our “ring bear” and all our friends and strangers who blessed our wedding with their support and presence… it was all just… perfect. People plan weddings for months or even years and ours came together in just a couple days.


We are really proud of the ceremony we wrote. Andrea's experience officiating weddings sure came in handy! We borrowed from some of our favorite readings and authors. We wanted to affirm all people and all creation. We wanted to affirm all love and all relationships. We wanted to affirm different religious traditions. Most importantly, we wanted to do all this in a way that was true to us.

Most of all, our wedding speaks of our hopes and it speaks from our hearts. It felt like us. It was a deeply personal, transformative, gentle and powerful event. In reading this, you might think with all the readings and the setting that we were being a bit showy, but I would be surprised if anyone present felt that way. It was just us, and this is who we are. It was real and authentic and most of all deeply personal. Andrea and I both traveled long, sometimes hard roads to get there. It was a sacred moment.

The day before, we participated in a Cosmic Mass facilitated by Matthew Fox. It was a divine liturgy that brought us closer to the earth and drew from elements from many religious traditions as well. In a mystical way, we truly felt that our wedding was like another installment in this grand cosmic mass—this eternal liturgy that just keeps unfolding and unfolding through all time and space with many more installments along the way. Some might say our wedding was a rebellious break from religious tradition, but by following our hearts and being true to ourselves, I have never felt more sure of sacramental presence and more sure that we were connected to the deepest, most eternal traditions. I never felt more connected. Maybe you have to break away to realize that deeper connection, as Jesus himself did. Jesus himself shows us how grace is often found most often in the margins, among the castaways and in the out-of-the-way places. And we found it in our wedding. So while some would call what we did a break from tradition, you could also say it was a deeper embrace of tradition than ever.


Click to watch the Video of the Wedding!
NOTE: Video stabilizes after the first few minutes!

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