Blessing Same-Sex Couples

By Diann L. Neu with Mary E. Hunt

April 2021

The Vatican’s recent ban on same-sex blessings has caused a myriad of responses worldwide in favor of such blessings. We, the WATER Community, rejoice in the love of all couples and in the abundant blessings which the Divine Creator showers on our world through them.

We, in turn, both as individuals and as a community that embraces same-sex couples, seek to be a blessing in our many works of education, liturgy, and justice. We bestow blessings as well, knowing that all persons share equally in the goodness of creation.

When people find one another as lifetime companions, they often want to gather family, friends, and colleagues to celebrate their good fortune. For some, their life partner is of the same sex or non-binary. They promise publicly to love as equal partners, cherish and respect one another, nurture each other’s personal and spiritual growth, create a family or community together, and work for a more just society.

This liturgy blesses a same-sex couple. We have adapted it for blessings, holy unions, commitment ceremonies, and weddings. We invite you to use it as a model to design the liturgy you need.

Liturgy

Preparation

Choose a setting that matches your values and lifestyle, one that will accommodate your guests. Couples have chosen community centers, gardens, backyard settings, churches, homes, parks, a private room in a restaurant or hotel, outside by the sea or a riverbank, among others.

Place a table in a central place and cover it with a cloth. Put candles, flowers, rings, bread, wine/drink, and glasses on it as needed for your liturgy. This is a time to use family heirlooms and other symbols that hold sentiment for you.

Gathering / Processional Song

Choose a song that is special to you to open your blessing. For a more formal processional, Pachelbel’s Canon, Handel’s Passacaglia, and Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary are common. Those who have a part in the ceremony usually process in first, followed by the couple. Some couples prefer to walk in together. Others choose to enter arm in arm with their families or friends. Some walk in with their children. Even pets have been known to join!

Welcome and Introductions

One of the partners, or a person they designate, welcomes those gathered:

We want to welcome all of you and thank you for joining us today. We are so happy you are here to share in our joy. You are the people in our lives who have helped us arrive at this place on our respective paths to be together. You have helped us to be who we are and to create the relationship we are so delighted to share. Each of you has made some difference in our lives. If it were not for you, we would not be who we are now, or where we are now.

The other partner, or a designated person, continues:

We want you to know one another. You come from different parts of our lives, so a lot of you have not met, although most of you have heard about each other. Take a couple of minutes right now and introduce yourself to those who are near you. Tell them your name, where you are from, and how you know us. (For a virtual event, type this information in the chat.)

Song: “I Am with You” by Kathy Sherman, CSJ, from Always with You (Ministry of the Arts ©1992). Used with permission.

I am with you on the journey, and I will never leave you.
I am with you on the journey, always with you.

Call to Gather

This sacred hour, we come together to witness this ceremony of love and commitment between N. and N. Their love for one another, for each of us here, and for the broader community shows that love makes a difference in the world. Proclaiming love publicly takes an act of courage. Thank you, N. and N., for inviting us to witness and bless your love.

Our presence here for and with you is a sign of our support, our love, and our commitment to you as a couple. Our coming together today in the context of this liturgy is a declaration that love is powerful and transforming.

Feel the power of love today. Know of love’s presence as we share with N. and N. Let us ask the Divine by all names to bless them and all of us.

Opening Prayer

Source of All Being, Eternal Word, Spirit of Wisdom,
Adonai, Gaia, Buddha,
Yahweh, Vishnu, Allah,
Wisdom Sophia, Cosmic Consciousness, Great Spirit,
Thank you for this day!

Bless this occasion that brings us together to bless N. and N.
Bless what we do and say here to reflect the sacredness of life.
Bless all creation through this sign of love shown in N. and N.

Source of All Being, Eternal Word, Spirit of Wisdom,
Adonai, Gaia, Buddha,
Yahweh, Vishnu, Allah,
Wisdom Sophia, Cosmic Consciousness, Great Spirit,
Bless us on this day and always!
Amen. Ashe. Let it be so.

A Reading from 1 Corinthians 13:1-13

Even if I speak in all the tongues of Earth—and those of angels, too—but do not have love, I am just a noisy gong, a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy such that I can comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge, or if I have faith great enough to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own to feed those poorer than I, then hand over my body to be burned, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient; love is kind. Love is not jealous, it does not put on airs, and it is not snobbish; it is never rude or self-seeking; it is not prone to anger, not does it brood over injuries. Love doesn’t rejoice in what is wrong, but rejoices in the truth. There is no limit to love’s forbearance, to its trust, its hopes, its power to endure.

Love never fails. Prophecies will cease; tongues will be silent; knowledge will pass away. Our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying is imperfect. When the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away. When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child. But when I became an adult, I put childish ways aside. Now we see indistinctly, as in a mirror; then we will see face to face. My knowledge is imperfect now; then I will know, even as I am known.

There are, in the end, three things that last: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. This is the word of Love.

            Response: Thanks be to God.

Song: “I Am with You” by Kathy Sherman, CSJ, from Always with You (Ministry of the Arts ©1992). Used with permission.

I am with you on the journey, and I will never leave you.
I am with you on the journey, always with you.

 
A Reading of The Beatitudes
DignityUSA ©2003. Used with Permission.

Blessed are you, lesbian, gay, queer, bi, trans, straight sister, brother, friend, ally—you are made in the image of divine love!

Blessed are you when you dare to bring the truth of who you are into loving relationship with others—you heal and strengthen the global community!

Blessed are you who challenge stereotypes and caricatures—you bring light to the world!

Blessed are you who speak out against religious hypocrisy—you help to birth justice and peace!

Blessed are you when you work for full equality and inclusion—you honor the sacredness of all people!

Blessed are you when you create new kinds of families formed by love rather than by law—you live the truth that all God’s people are one family!

Blessed are you who seek to worship in spirit and in truth, whose prayer arises from humble hearts—the Spirit of holiness will inspire and guide you!

Blessed are you who offer comfort to the dying, healing to the sick, food to the hungry, housing to the homeless, presence to the lonely, hope to the hopeless—you are the religious message our aching world so desperately needs to know!

Blessed are you, reviled and persecuted, yet persistent in faith, hope, and love! Rejoice and be proud for in you God’s love is revealed!

Words of Reflection: “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” by Mary E. Hunt

Good day to all of you, and warm wishes to you, N. and N., on this festive occasion. On behalf of all of us gathered, let me thank you two for inviting us to share in the goodness of your love. Thank you especially for giving us this opportunity not only to support you in your commitments to one another, but also to meet people from many facets of your lives. In so doing, we are enriched by what I think of as your love seeking community. That is what makes this day different from every other day. You have decided to mark time in a new way from this day forward, dividing your lives into the time before you proclaimed your love and the time after, in what I, speaking for all of us gathered, hope will be many happy, healthy years.

My thoughts on this special occasion borrow boldly from the singer Tina Turner who asks a central question for all of us: “What’s Love Got to Do with It?” In all the hoopla of the celebrations, and especially in all of the debate which surrounds same-gender blessings and marriages, I worry that love may be moved off center stage just when it deserves a solo. Or, that in overusing the word, we might miss its power completely.

Committing in love is a gutsy thing to do today. Standing before the people you most want to think well of you and promising to keep at this relationship through thick and thin is risky business, human frailty being what it is. I admire you as I catalogue just how frail I am, indeed how frail most of us are, in this regard. But love insists.

In your case, commitment is made even more difficult by loving at a time when some people still don’t understand that love comes in many forms. Efforts to turn back legal marriage for all and trivializing same-sex love by the Vatican make it hard. Between those attitudes and the outcry of the Religious Right, it is amazing that you and other lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and non-binary friends have the courage to trust your love, live it out, and more so in this climate, to entrust it to the rest of us. Good for you!

Your efforts are thwarted, too, by some Christian churches, the churches of which you are both a part, whose doors are closed to you today. History alone will judge those churches that disgrace themselves by offering blessings to animals for the feast of St. Francis but withhold their sacraments from same-gender couples who seek nothing more than to call attention, religious attention, to their love as heterosexual people have done for millennia.

I know you do not need institutional approval, but it is important that you know that the People of God are with you today in the persons of your family and friends, despite the recalcitrance of the kyriarchies. Given such behaviors by some religious leaders, it is a wonder that you want to celebrate your love in the context of a community at all. But you do, and so we are here from a range of backgrounds, religious and not, to offer you our support.

Your love and your choice to celebrate it in this way is even controversial in the larger community of lesbian and gay people. No less a theological expert than a comedian, Kate Clinton speaks of events like today as cases of “mad vow disease.” There may be days down the road when you will think she was right—I must have been mad to do it—but I think that something far more powerful is at play here for which we who are privileged to participate as witnesses can only express our gratitude. That something is love. The answer to Tina Turner’s question, “What’s love got to do with it?” is everything.

Love is what brought you together for reasons you’ll never fully understand and no one has a right to expect you to explain. Love is why you bother to work out the little things like whose turn it is to do the dishes, and the big things, like whether and when to choose children. Love is the excuse for giving each other extra time in a day when there just isn’t another minute. Love is the reason why you’ve decided to enter into one another’s families when you each have a family of your own. There is no other good explanation for such things, and love will have to do, and it does just fine.

Love is not a political matter at base, nor only a private one. Rather, love is the very essence of ourselves in community, which some like you have found and touched and hope to deepen together. You have been lucky in love; many people long all their lives for what you have in such abundance today. Guard it, but above all enjoy it to the max. It may not happen again. Love is like that.

Given this very unique but quite abundant experience called love, it is no wonder that love is the name of God, of the Divine, of Sophia. And Her nickname is love, and his middle name is love, and its confirmation name is love because there is no other better way to describe what is so palpable this important day when you put us in touch with something so precious. The insights we have just heard, the music, prayers, and vow sharing that make up this blessing are vivid testimony to the presence of the Divine in all things, and above all, in love. Likewise, our sharing of bread and wine reminds us that love is always very concrete, and that it has consequences that shape the world. It is for this that we can only be grateful for love, just grateful.

Thank you for standing before us today, giving love two beautiful faces so that we may see it in ourselves, in one another and in our God forever. That’s what love has to do with it, all of it. Love is indeed a miracle, and you embody this miracle. Treasure it well all the days of your lives.

Sharing Memories / Reflections / Blessings

Love is revealed to us through the beautiful faces of N. and N. What memories or reflections do you have of their love? Let us share some of these now, in a sentence or two. Sharing.

Exchange of Vows

We read in the book of Corinthians that “there are, in the end, three things that last: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.” We as a community are here to witness and bless the love of N. and N. Come forward, N. and N., to speak your blessing to one another.

The couple face each other, join hands, and repeat in turn:

On this day, I give you my heart, and promise you
that I will look deep within myself and treasure my individuality.
I will love you, respect you, listen to you, and cherish you.
I will share my life with you in plenty and in want, in sickness and in health.
I will work with you to bring about justice for our community and the cosmos.
Hand in hand, across oceans and over mountains,
Wherever our journey takes us. Together. Forever.

Exchange of Rings

Rings are a visible sign of the sealing of a promise, an announcement that can be seen for all the days and years to come. Rings are made of precious substances and symbolize the treasure that your relationship holds. As you give and receive rings, may you be attentive to the bond of love that is ever deepening between you.

The couple exchanges rings, and says in turn:

N., I give this ring to you as a sign of my love, as a symbol of the communities to which we belong, and as a reminder of the promises we have made here today.

Pronouncement of Holy Union
Said by all, in unison: With the power of life invested in us, we bless you and pronounce you joined together as partners in life, love, and spiritual integrity.

Blessing Bread
One partner holds the bread, saying:

Extend your hands toward this bread.

Blessed are you, Gracious and Loving Creator, Divine Love, Holy Wisdom, for this Eucharistic love feast. You call us to the banquet table. We take, bless, break, and eat this bread in thanksgiving for the love we have known, in thanksgiving for the love we have received, in thanksgiving for the love we have given and will give. May love increase.

Blessing Drink
The other partner holds the drink, saying:

Extend your hands toward this drink.

Blessed are you, Holy One of Joy, Divine Love, Holy Wisdom, for creating this fruit of the vine. Young wine reminds us of new love; aged wine, growing richer and fuller, symbolizes long-lasting love. We give thanks for this fruit of the vine and recall the lasting love of beloved partners and dear friends. May love increase.

Communion
The couple passes the bread and drink around the circle for all to eat and drink. All, without exception, are welcome to partake.

Song: Play a favorite song.

Closing Blessing
Let us ask Divine Love to bless and keep N. and N. in Her care. I invite each of us to respond “Blessed Be Love” to the following blessing.

N.and N., may your lives together be joyful and content, and may your love be as bright as the stars, as warm as the sun, as accepting as the ocean, and as enduring as the mountains.

            Response: Blessed be love.

May you remember that your love, like planet Earth, when nurtured, fertilized, and watered can withstand the most treacherous storms. May you plant your relationship into the solid ground of love so that in dry seasons you may drink deeply from this source.

            Response: Blessed be Love.

May your heart hear more than words… listening to each other’s silences and exploring each other’s processes.

            Response: Blessed be Love.

May your love for each other pull you beyond yourselves into the hearts and lives of all those calling for justice, dignity, and love.

            Response: Blessed be Love.

May you be blessed with wisdom to find the path upon which you both may walk, and with clear vision to keep sight of the grace that surrounds you.

            Response: Blessed be Love.

May you continue to make your love clearly and truly a reflection of the infinite love that embraces us all.

            Response: Blessed be Love.

And my you, N. and N., be blessed in the name of the Source of Life who loves us into being, the Beloved who is the way of love, and the Holy Spirit Wisdom whose burning love sets us free. Amen. Ashe. Let it be so.

Sending Forth
With this blessing, this part of our celebration is concluded. Let us go forth in the name of Divine Love, filled with the power of love revealed through N. and N.

May we each treasure love this day.
May we give thanks for those we have loved and for those who have loved us.
May love increase so that violence and injustice may cease.
Amen. Ashe. Let it be so.

Recessional
A favorite song plays as N. and N. walk out, followed by their party and guests.

 

© 2021 Diann L. Neu and Mary E. Hunt, Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Ritual (WATER), dneu@hers.com