My father spent WWII in Italy, in a tank. During his first leave, he encountered an enchantress, a figure of surpassing beauty, sophistication, and mystery. My father was beguiled. If you have ever travelled in Italy, perhaps you have met her. The Italians call her La Serenissima, the most serene one—Venice. For a soldier who had spent his childhood on a farm in Appomattox and Sundays in a white clapboard Methodist chapel, Venice was fantastical place. His every letter to his bride from Venice ended with the promise that, someday, he would return with her and lead her through this magical city he had grown to love. But life intervened: first mine, then my sister’s, then his career, which took on a life of its own.
Charlie and I have known for quite some time that we wanted a family together. Family was very important to us growing up, and as we began building our life together, it seemed like a natural decision to add a child (or children, as the case may be) to the mix. It took us a bit of time to get there... As some of you know, we tried adding to our family through adoption for over a year, but had no success. It was after we were paired with an amazing gestational surrogate in Oregon that we were able to welcome Mamie and Jim into our lives.
This past Ash Wednesday Tommy and I were in London. We were heading to church when we received word that our beloved priest associate, Edgar Adams, had died. As the dust motes from the rich incense danced about me, I thought about Edgar, who had been friend and mentor; I thought about this church, which he loved; and I thought about the church in which I sat, St. Mary-le-bow. The two churches seemed to have little in common, except the Anglican Communion. Yet, as I reflected on their histories, I realized both churches were founded after great wars; both congregations occupied four successive structures; both churches were flourishing in the middle of the 20th century, but both churches faced closure in the early 1990s. I believe that both churches, at that critical juncture in their respective histories, re-envisioned the Kingdom of God.
When I was in middle school and first began really listening to a lot music, I decided I had to make an important choice: Was I a fan of the Beatles or the Rolling Stones? It’s absurd for anyone to feel they need to make this distinction for themselves – especially a twelve-year-old living in Central Virginia in the early nineties – but I decided I was a Rolling Stones fan. I’ll spare you most of the reasons for this choice, but one of them had to do with the Beatles song, “All You Need is Love.” In my cynical, adolescent mind, this was an absurd statement. Surely we all need quite a bit more than love. We need food, shelter, education, protection from the elements, medical care, and assistance in emergencies. Love is great, but it doesn’t, as they say, “pay the bills.”
Over and over again in recent months the phrase love is our tradition has been affirmed in my life. While standing in the chancel with my dearest McKenna as Father David officiated our marriage vows. In that still quiet holy space, our shared love and God’s love was felt all around us.