The royal wedding lived up to the hype that preceded it. It was all we expected and more. Beyond the haute couture outfits, the array of celebrity guests dressed to the nines and all round pomp and pageantry, there were many highlights of the epoch-making event. And depending on who you were talking, to the star of the day could range from the Kingdom Choir, a group of 20 whose rendition of “Stand By Me” was anything but pedestrian to 19-year old Sheku Kanneh Mason’s graceful performance to Bishop Michael Curry’s unusual sermon.
There were several moments of subtle and somewhat blatant departure to the usual way of conducting royal weddings. However, for me, without any iota of doubt, Reverend Michael Curry, the Primate of the US Episcopal Chruch’s address stood out.
I remember how quietly happy and in love the couple looked. I was excited to see public figures such as Oprah Winfrey, Serena Williams and David Beckham make an appearance looking like the bags of money they are. And the bride’s dress (which was refreshingly modest) and procession all made for great viewing. Nevertheless, what has been most memorable for me since the historical day is the sermon preached by the American Bishop.
In less than a quarter of an hour, Michael Curry delivered an address that will be talked about for years to come. It was a simple message of love. Not surprising on an occasion that was a celebration of love. But the message was nothing like the often drab and mechanical instructions attendees often can’t wait to move on from during wedding ceremonies. It was also devoid of a list of do’s and don’ts for the couple as they proceed on their marital journey.
Rather, Bishop Curry’s sermon transversed race, slavery, culture, and social justice, it spoke to the core of humanity. It was instructive without being commanding, poignant without being sentimental and soul-stirring without being judgemental.
The clergyman spoke with a rare passion, refusing to be intimidated by the magnitude of the occasion. It didn’t matter that the Queen of England was present, neither was it of much significance that Windsor Castle was almost bursting at the seams with the number of important personalities in attendance.
Curry spoke from the heart, touching on sensitive issues that modern-day preachers would prefer to shy away from, and even quoted the famous words of Martin Luther King to boot.
I had no expectations of the wedding sermon. I had assumed it would be a solemn, lacklustre affair that was typical in such ceremonies. Something that reflects the prim and proper lifestyle of Brits. The ministers expressive and emotive speech left me pleasantly surprised; but much more than that, it left me happy and with the hope that humanity isn’t totally lost after all.
I was particularly moved by the message because the concept of love is a phenomenon I have been thinking about a lot recently. Maybe I am just naive, but lately, I have found myself pondering what informs man’s propensity for evil. I have been ruminating over why people have no scruples hurting their neighbour. Each time I turn on the TV or read the news online, there’s always something about man’s act of inhumanity to his neighbour. And when people have wronged me without justification, I have also stopped to think of why they did what they did.
What was also interesting were the varied reactions to Rev Curry’s unorthodox preaching style. Members of the royal family are trained to conceal their emotions in public, but some of them could not help looking bemused. If the animated preacher saw it, he chose to ignore it, which I thought was another plus for him.
Not a few ministers would tone their message down in deference to the dignitaries present at the event. They would go for flowery words that would instead, massage the ego of the royal family, staying away from controversial subject matters or innuendos that would prick the conscience. The Reverend laid an example of how one could speak from the heart in a world where it’s far more acceptable to be politically correct.
At the end of the day, it was difficult to believe the message only lasted a couple of minutes, it felt as though the clergy spoke for a lot more time.
Again, that’s the effect of a powerful speech, like many other things, it’s not about how long but how well. It’s in the quality of the words and not the verbosity. From the gesticulations and earnestness with which Curry delivered his riveting exhortation, he could have easily passed as an orator or motivational speaker.
And now, on account of a 14-minute speech, the first black leader of America’s Episcopal church has earned himself a spot in the annals of the history of great speakers.
Take a bow, Reverend!