- by Rev. Andy Oliver -
They met while in seminary. “Seeing her was the first time in my life I was taken aback by someone’s presence. I instantly thought who is this woman,” said Mary Ann Kaiser. That was the beginning of a love story between Mary Ann and Annanda—a journey that is leading them to the wedding aisle at Reconciling Ministries Network’s convocation Labor Day weekend in Maryland, where same-sex marriage is legal.
“Choosing to get married isn’t all about us. It is a response to God’s call on our lives to be one,” said Annanda Barclay, second year seminary student currently serving at Central Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas. “It is a spiritual act. Civil rights are a beautiful thing and should be realized for all couples, but marriage is rooted in Christ’s expression of love. We now get to be a sign to the world of what that love looks like, in our love for each other.”
“We are crazy in love, still making each other blush,” said Mary Ann Kaiser, a youth director and justice associate at University UMC in Austin. “I know this feeling won’t be there forever, but as we bind ourselves to one another through this sacred ritual, we commit to spending a lifetime learning how to love this other person—pushing, challenging, and helping to grow into the women God has called us to be. Marriage is our answering the call to use our love to do good things for the world together.”
Both women feel called to ordained ministry. Mary Ann, a frequent contributor to RMN’s blog, is seeking to be a Deacon in The United Methodist Church, and is passionate about the intersections of church and society. Open about her relationship with Annanda, Mary Ann’s UMC District Committee on Ministry in Austin recently voted to pass her through to interview with the Conference Board of Ordained Ministry. Annanda, called to parish ministry, is passionate about developing new churches that are diverse. “As an African American, queer, woman, in a church that is predominately white, I feel called to stand in the intersections of race, ethnicity, age, socio economic status, and sexual identities, celebrating with them all as one worshiping body.”
Reconciling Ministries Network is holding its convocation (ChurchQuake: Embracing Freedom) over Labor Day weekend in Maryland, where same-sex marriage is legal. “We thought it was important to give our community the opportunity and space to commit their lives in covenant to one another,” said RMN Executive Director Matt Berryman. “The RMN community will be gathered for worship, fellowship, and study, and I can think of no better time for a marriage to happen, for couples who have discerned this sacred calling, than when they are surrounded by those who will love and support them into the future.”The weddings will be taking place on the conference center grounds, but will not be happening during programming times. Couples will decide who is invited to their marriage ceremonies. Local area Reconciling clergy are prepared to assist couples who have gone through premarital counseling and have determined with their pastor that they are ready for marriage. Couples interested in exploring this possibility should visit the website which will give details concerning appropriate premarital preparations with your pastor, and securing a Maryland marriage license. Convocation leaders will work with the couples to schedule wedding ceremonies when friends can take part. There will also be a celebration at convocation recognizing all same-sex couples who have been married at convocation or before, closing with a gala reception, including wedding cake. RMN is committed to marriage equality and is pleased to provide this opportunity to live this out at convocation.
Mary Ann and Annanda said they chose convocation because community is important to them. “Marriage is not just a covenant between two people and God, but a covenant of the community surrounding them as well,” said Mary Ann. “There will be a day when things get tough, and to know that we have a community who were present on the day we made a promise and who remember the vision that started the whole thing, means we have someone to turn to give us strength. And that same community will help us celebrate for the next great thing—like adopting a child. Marriage is a communal event.”
Even though marriage equality is getting significant attention in the movement right now, both women feel strongly that it is not the most pressing need for the LGBTQ community. “Homeless youth who have been shunned from their families, same-sex, bi-national couples who have no immigration rights—those may not be the primary need of the privileged middle, upper class LGBTQ community, but needs like these are essential to equality,” said Mary Ann. Annanda agreed, adding that they plan to work for LGBTQ equality together as a couple. “Marriage isn't for everyone and it isn’t foremost about us. It is about answering our call to share the abundant gifts we have for each other with the world and community around us.”
Couples interested in exploring the possibility of getting married at convocation should talk to their local clergy person and then visit the convocation website. Be sure to save the date—see you at convocation!
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The Bride: Annanda Barclay graduated from Illinois College with a BS in International Studies and Spanish. She is a seminary student who is passionate about creating new frameworks in church development, so all people are welcomed and valued in the church. Annanda hopes to become an ordained minister in The PC (USA) and is currently an intern at Central Presbyterian Church in Austin, Texas. She is a board member of More Light Presbyterians working for LGBTQ equality in the Presbyterian Church (USA).
The Bride: Mary Ann Kaiser is a recent graduate of Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. She has a passion for working in the intersections of church and society. Her love for religious approaches to questions of ethics, particularly in the realms of race, gender, and sexuality, led her to internships at WATER (Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual) in Silver Spring, MD and Texas Freedom Network in Austin, TX. She has also worked for the Wesley Foundation and as a hospital chaplain. She currently serves as Youth Director and Justice Associate at University UMC in Austin and is pursuing ordination as a Deacon in The UMC. In her free time, she blogs for Reconciling Ministries Network.