I got married to God by a Bad News Bear

So by way of a ceremony that began around 3 p.m. on Saturday in my best friend Pastor Bob’s Church, in which Rev. David Stambaugh, associate pastor of the United Methodist Church of Hollywood served as officiant, I was ordained in accordance with the constitution and canons of the Progressive Christian Alliance as a Pastor in Christ’s Church.

The whole experience was one of those extremely rare affairs that are so obviously magical and ridiculously perfect that all you can do is sort of drift through it in that weird, practically zombie-making haze that comes over you whenever God completely takes over whatever’s going on.

Pastor Bob’s church is amazingly beautiful. And its whole altar area was decorated in the red used for ordination services, because the following day they were doing a confirmation service, which also calls for the red that symbolizes the fire which appeared over the heads of the apostles at the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

So that was a big coincidence.

So was the out-of-nowhere appearance of Sheldon, the church’s world-class pianist.

“Hi, guys,” said Sheldon, popping his head inside the sanctuary. On a Saturday afternoon. “Whatcha’ doin?”

“Having an ordination ceremony for my friend John here,” said Bob cheerily.

“Want some music?” asked Sheldon. “Some Beethoven maybe? Or some Bach?”

“Sure!” said Bob.

So while Bob and his beautiful wife Laura, who is the lead pastor of their church (Bob’s the associate pastor), busily set up the altar area—lighting the big candles, turning on the fountain bapistry at the front, getting all the lights just right—Sheldon prepared himself at the piano.

Then David Stambaugh arrived along with his beautiful wife Becky and a friend of theirs who seemed like the nicest guy in the world.

And it turns out that David is superb at this stuff. He was just so . . . perfectly warm and loving and kind and smart and funny and good-natured—and seriously prepared. Guy came to do business, man. He’d made sure to become familiar with my work. He had a little black binder thing from which he read the ordination questions he asked me. He was just . . .  all there. He’s a man of God who had come to do God’s work.

And he did! At some point he, me, my wife Catherine, Bob and Laura gathered in a half-circle around the softly burbling fountain. In the pews were his wife Becky and their friend, Bob and Laura’s beautiful teenage daughter Emily, Emily’s godmother (a wonderful friend of Bob and Laura’s whose name escapes me, which is awful because she’s a wonderful person with whom my wife and I had the greatest chat), and Pastor Laura’s mother, visiting from out of town.

When we were all ready Sheldon concluded his gorgeous playing and quietly took his seat in a front pew.

After a long pause David spoke. He said beautiful things about why we were there. Then he asked Bob to say a blessing for the occasion, and we bowed our heads in prayer as Bob said unbelievably beautiful things about my ministry, and the extremely important role Cat plays in it: he called my work the ministry of both Cat and I, which I really appreciated. Then Laura prayed a prayer for me and us and my work, which was so beautiful and powerful that, with my head down, it was all I could do not to join Cat in crying.

Then David asked me the ordination questions, which were about ten thousand times stronger than anything I had expected. It was  . . .  fully liturgical: the same sonorous, ancient-language, full-on vow stuff you hear when . . .  well, when people receive their ordination. So I listened, hard, to everything he was asking, and then said “I do,” and “I will” when it was time to.

It was just like getting married. It was that serious.

Boy. It was something. It was kind of exactly like the time I’d stood before my church’s congregation and answered the questions put to me by my pastor during the ceremony of my adult baptism. (Which, I realized last night, had happened sixteen years before on exactly the same date—October 20th—as my ordination.)

Then everyone laid hands on me, and as he gently squeezed my shoulder David said as beautiful a prayer as anyone ever has.

So. That’s how it happened. Below are pictures. (From top to bottom: Cat and me; David Stambaugh and me; le’ ordination; David; me and Pastor Bob; child actor David.)

I really want to thank everyone who left a kind word on last time’s post. I certainly did read and deeply appreciate each and every one of them. And you better believe I held them in my heart during the whole affair. Again, thank you for that so very much.

David Stambaugh was a child actor. He played played infielder Toby Whitewood in The Bad News Bears (1976), The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training (1977), and The Bad News Bears Go to Japan (1978). This is him being Toby:

But David’ll always be a Good News Bear to me.

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter.

  • Rob Brunner via Facebook

    Congratulations, John.

  • Jill Hileman via Facebook

    Absolutely beautiful, John. I was keeping it together until I read your baptism was exactly 16 years earlier on the same date. Now I’m all mushy. Of course then I actually read this title, and now I just laugh.

  • Jill Hileman via Facebook

    Oh… and I think we’d all love a podcast on this whole topic BTW (if you feel moved to). Just sayin.

    • Diana A.

      Yes! I’ve serious missed your podcasts!

  • http://www.facebook.com/douglas.sewell Doug Sewell via Facebook

    Congratulations John!

  • http://www.xanga.com/sillama1 ~ Sil in Corea

    Congratulations! I’m so Very Happy for you! So does this make you a Bear for God? (A Corean bear is the mother in their cultural creation story.)

    {{{{{Hugs from Asia}}}}}

  • Kerry

    Thank you for sharing that so beautifully.

    I too LOVE the exactly 16 year part.

    That seems like a “God wink” for sure (have you ever read that book, “When God Winks”?)

    All the best to you and Cat :-)

    • Kerry

      P.S. (Same Kerry as commented on post before this but I changed my e-mail address – I’m actually happy to move on from the brown pattern – no offense to those who love brown)

  • mike moore

    sounds like a great day … may many more come your way.

  • Brian Erickson via Facebook

    how cool is that? Congratulations, John! I was initially surprised though to see your face attached to a real body; I think I was subconsciously expecting you to wear blue boxers to your ordination…

  • jesse

    How amazingly fantastically wonderful, John! Talk about spreading the good news!!!!

    Many happy congrats and God’s eternal blessings to you, Cat, David, and everyone else who were there!

    • boy jesse

      i’ve referred to you as Pastor John for ages. It’s just… wow! It’s all official now and stuff!!! SERIOUSLY happy for you!

  • Carol VanderNat

    Congratulations to you and to Cat!

  • Valerie

    Congratulations!! I am sure that God was smiling throughout the entire ceremony!

  • Ric Booth

    Congratulations, friend.

  • http://www.poesies.com Gina Cirelli

    Congratulations to you, Cat, and all the wonderful people you help and will help in the future.

  • Janet F

    John, Congratulations. What a beautiful day! And what a perfect addition to the ranks.

  • skip johnston

    This is just so cool! Congratulations to John and his partner in ministry, Cat. Congratulations to every “member” of this incredible cyber-church. This has been a very good day in Christ’s church.

    • Maria

      Amen to that.

    • Don Rappe

      Amen!

  • http://amandajustice.blogspot.com Amanda

    Thank you so much for sharing this — I’m thrilled beyond words :)

  • http://www.barnmaven.com Barnmaven

    Many congratulations, Pastor!

  • Nicole

    Congrats, Pastor John! :)

  • Maria

    Congratulations, John and Cat, and many blessings on the both of you.

  • Don Rappe

    The surrealist writer finds his calling as a priest. and the husband of one wife. Hallelelujah!

    • n.

      I could see magic realism, totally. But surrealist?! Maybe i missed a book….

  • Michelle P.

    Warm congratulations, and way to go, for embracing who you are, what you believe, and for sharing this special moment. Your beautiful description of your ceremony has me teary. The love shines through. I appreciate how seriously you have taken this and I thank you for sharing it.

    • vj

      My thoughts exactly!

  • Laurie McNeece

    Congratulations, John!!! (OMG – Tanner?! How awesome!)

  • http://www.greggdeselms.com Gregg DesElms

    My most heartfelt congratulations! And what a blessing that the whole experience was so meaningful for you and your wife. It clearly could not have been more perfect.

    _______________________

    Gregg L. DesElms

    Napa, California USA

    gregg at greggdeselms dot com

  • Drew Meyer

    Hi John,

    Congratulations! On this very happy occasion, may I present the prayer for the church used at the ordinations in my tradition, The Episcopal Church:

    Let us pray.

    O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry

    out in tranquillity the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were being cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

    (the Book of Common Prayer, Pg. 528)

  • Matt

    A thousand congratulations and blessings, John.

    “Married to God.” Sounds like how I felt about my Confirmation of Baptism. I know you’ll do great things with it, because you already have.

  • Elizabeth

    Congratulations, John! You are grace under pressure ten thousand times stronger than expected once a week. At least. Please send my thanks to your ministry’s co-captain, too. Not only is she brilliant and funny, but Cat is radiantly beautiful in these photos. Thumbs way up.

  • Susan in NY

    I am so happy for you, John! Congratulations to you both, Cat and John, on this momentous event.

    much love

    Susan in NY

  • vj

    Awesome, John! Thanks so much for sharing this with us.

  • http://castlerockbear.tumblr.com Keith Walsh

    Congratulations!! It made my day reading this! The simple things that a person can do to make them a HERO in the eyes of another!

  • http://rindle.blogspot.com Lyn

    Just awesome.

  • textjunkie

    oh how marvelous. Congratulations!!

  • W. Lotus

    Many heartfelt congratulations to you on your ordination!

  • Stuart

    Excellent!

    Congratulations pastor dude!

  • Lori Tressler

    Pastor John! Awesomeness!

  • Erin D.

    This is exciting! Congratulations!

  • Nessie

    John,

    Congrats, my friend! :)

    Nessie


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