It was great to have a visit with UUs from the Philippines in late April/early May. The UU Church of the Philippines (UUCP) held its 55th Annual Convention
from April 24 - 27 in Dumaguete City at the UUCP's headquarters. The theme of the Convention was "Restoring the Environment" and excellent presentations on the theme were made by a variety of speakers. In attendance were a bit fewer than 100 UUCP members and approximately 35 UUCP ministers from 27 congregations on Negros Island and 1 congregation in Metro Manila. There are a thousand stories that I could share, and I'll mention one in this blogpost and another in a blogpost later this week. But, the overwhelming impression that I brought home with me is that the UUCP is doing incredible ministry in a very challenging context, and there's a great deal of inspiration here. Needless to say the generosity and hospitality was immense. It was so good to be with our member congregations for this visit.
One of the highlights was witnessing a UU Holy Union/Religious Commitment ceremony in Manila that was supported by the UU community in Quezon City. Its uncertain whether or not a similar religious commitment ceremony had ever been held in The Philippines, but this was the first UU Holy Union ceremony, and so undoubtedly one of the first religiously blessed gay/lesbian commitment ceremony's in the Philippines. Tet Gallardo, who is one of the leaders of that UU community, organized the ceremony and officiated at it. I was so grateful to be invited to preach the wedding homily.
The happy couple, Marty and Millie, were surrounded by family and friends on this special day. During the ceremony a beautiful rainbow chalice was lit, a "charge" was presented to the couple, rings were blessed and exchanged, vows were shared, and a declaration of their union was made, all interspersed by UU hymns.
Though the government of The Philippines does not recognize the religious commitment ceremonies of gays and lesbians as state-sanctioned marriages - and though there isn't an opportunity for civil-unions in The Philippines - it was clear to everyone that while our first priority was to celebrate the sacred love that his come to life between Marty and Millie, we were also marking a step along the long, hard and challenging road towards justice and equality for all people.
One of the best day's in 12 years of congregational ministry for me was in mid-May, 2004 when Equal Marriage became real in Massachusetts. Like many of my colleagues in Massachusetts, I was honored to officiate at many weddings for same-sex couples that day (I believe it was 7), and perhaps a dozen more in the weeks that followed. Love and Justice were everywhere and uniquely intertwined during those days. And, the feeling in Manila during Millie and Marty's ceremony was reminiscent of that day. I'll cherish it always.
But, most importantly, congratulations to Millie and Marty. God bless your love and commitment. And, thank you for sharing it with the world.