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The Universal Lessons of the Royal Wedding

The Universal Lessons of the Royal Wedding

Royal wedding cookies on a plate with the British flag in the background

So darling, darling
Stand by me, oh, stand by me
Oh stand, stand by me,
Stand by me
-- Ben E. King

Though I’m not a particularly engaged Royals fan (no slight to Kansas City baseball aficionados), I did record and watch much of this past weekend’s nuptials of Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. The wedding was lovely and the coverage fascinating.

Almost as colorful as the Queen's suit were the vibrant outfits, fascinators, and enthusiasm evident throughout the chapel. Typical of many weddings, family and friends had gathered to bask in the aura of fresh love, support the couple, and listen and respond to readings, chants, sermons, and vows.

Early on, I was struck by the reading chosen by Lady Jane Fellowes, elder sister of the late Princess Diana. It was familiar:

Arise, my darling;
My fair one, come away!
For now the winter is past,
The rains are over and gone.
The blossoms have appeared in the land,
The time of pruning has come;
The song of the turtledove
Is heard in our land.
The green figs form on the fig tree,
The vines in blossom give off fragrance.
Arise, my darling;
My fair one, come away!
-- The Song of Songs 2:10-13

These are some of my favorite verses, so I was drawn in. Not only did I feel a visceral connection to the ceremony, but recognized, too, that the beauty and relevance of these words transcend theological differences between my Judaism and the Church of England.

And then there was Bishop Michael Curry, head of the Episcopal Church of the United States, who spoke about the power of love, paraphrasing words from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1957 sermon given at the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama:

It seems to me that this is the only way. As our eyes look to the future, as we look out across the years and across the generations, let us develop and move right here. We must discover the power of love, the power, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that, we will be able to make this old world a new world. We will be able to make men better. Love is the only way.

The universality of these sentiments gave me a moment to escape from the angst of dealing with living in our splintered world.

But there’s more. From the website of the Episcopal Church: “Throughout his ministry, Presiding Bishop Curry has been active in issues of      social justice, speaking out on immigration policy and marriage equality.”

And so, we share common ground.  We share common values. We share a common call to action.

Much emphasis has been placed on the richness of the biracial background of the American actress and activist, on the diversity represented among the guests in the congregation, and on the potential change in the world the coming together of these two socially-conscious people might effect. Much has been touted about the interspersing of British and American traditions and references during the ceremony. Much has been celebrated about the wonderful young royal wedding cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason and about the memorable rendition by Karen Gibson and the Kingdom Choir of Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me.”

Yes, indeed.

As stunning as the wedding was as a visual, pluralistic, and emotionally-moving display, the key connector, however, is the awareness that – despite the differences that religions sometimes emphasize for the sake of differentiation – a better future lies among the values, hopes, and aspirations we human beings share across cultures, countries, and ideologies.  Indeed, we need to stand by each other in the calls to action that truly will make our world one of compassion, justice, and wholeness.

Kerry Leaf is the director of North American board engagement and development for the Union for Reform Judaism. She partners with exceptional lay leadership from congregations throughout the United States and Canada, facilitating their work with URJ staff, partners, and affiliates to strengthen congregations, promote audacious hospitality, engage our youth, and work towards tikkun olam (repairing the world). Kerry also served as past president of five non-profit boards, but her most challenging and rewarding volunteer presidency was of her former synagogue. She is currently a member of Am Shalom and Congregation Hakafa, both located in Glencoe, IL.

 

Kerry Leaf

Published: 5/21/2018

Categories: Arts & Culture, Weddings
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