Capping off a month of pride festivities, Holy Trinity Lutheran Church hosted its first marriage equality service for a number of couples June 27.
AJ Yoeckel and Sean Diller exchanged vows for the first time and 17 other couples, both gay and straight, renewed their vows from earlier marriages, civil unions or commitment ceremonies in front of about 200 family, friends and well wishers.
Holy Trinity's two gay pastors, Craig Mueller and Michelle Sevig were among the couples renewing their vows; Mueller with Ernest Vasseur and Sevig with Julie Sevig.
Karen Anderson Moran and Rich Moran, Richard Bough and David Easterbrook, Kenneth Jon Duckmann and James Anthony Perez, Patty and Mark Erickson, Andy Halvorson and Scott Nelson, Colleen (Fleming) Hanna and Christopher Hanna, Dana Johnson and Thomas (Schneider) Johnson, Brian Jones and Jeremiah Peterson, Beth (Borst) and Steve Mankowski, Benjeman L. Nichols and Brian A. von Rueden, Erika Robeck and Martin Baber, Carol and Robert Schickel, Kyle Severson and Clyde Andrew Walter, Alison Strickler and Aana Maria Vigen, and David and Karol Stahl also renewed their vows.
Bishop Wayne Miller of the Metropolitan Chicago Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America presided over the service along with Assisting Minister Joel Cruz and Crucifier Josh Evans.
The Moran's daughters Cassie Moran and Megan Moran were the torchbearers for the service and their other daughter Molly Moran along with the Sevig's daughter Annika Sevig and John Flowers welcomed each guest as they arrived. The first reading was performed by the Sevig's son Peder Sevig.
In Miller's words of welcome, he noted the special nature of this ceremony and said that Holy Trinity Lutheran Church has fought for greater inclusivity for the past 25 years. Miller also spoke about the bonds that bring two people together as a couple and called on the congregation to be witnesses to each couple's commitment of marriage to each other.
During Miller's sermon he spoke about the importance of this occasion and thanked everyone for the opportunity to be a part of this wonderful celebration.
Sevig officiated Yoeckel and Diller's wedding immediately following Miller's sermon. Four women served as the groom's attendants during the ceremony. Cheers and applause erupted as Yoeckel and Diller kissed each other for the first time as a married couple.
After the sign of peace, the couples renewing their vows gathered at the altar to affirm their commitment to each other with Miller serving as their officiant.
Minister of Music David R. Brackley and trumpeters Thomas Madeja and Sylvia Carlson provided musical arrangements throughout the service. Pastor Sevig, Patty Erickson, and Megan Eichhorn served as reception coordinators for the event.
Yoeckel and Diller said that when this idea came up they jumped at the chance because this day was about community and the idea of sharing this special day with their church family was very appealing. They also made note of the church's long history of social-justice activism.
"My husband and I were excited about the opportunity for our own marriage but also to share in the joy of all the other couples that can finally legally get married," said Borst of the ceremony.
Married for 43 years, the Schickel's decided to take part in the ceremony because they were already looking to renew their vows and what better way than to celebrate their love and commitment with these amazing couples who can finally legally wed.
A reception featuring hors d'oeuvres from Inspiration Kitchens, champagne and wedding cake took place in the church hall following the service.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) has allowed partnered gay and lesbian clergy to serve in ELCA congregations since 2009 and Holy Trinity Lutheran Church has welcomed LGBT people in all areas of participation and leadership in the church since 1990, the year they became a Reconciling in Christ congregation.
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