>Wedding Bells and Church Travails

>What a gorgeous weekend we had! Saturday morning my husband and I drove over to Franklin, Tennessee, for the wedding of Troy and Taya Mashburn. Troy’s father is our pastor here at St. John Orthodox Church in Memphis, and weddings that he celebrates always remind me of my own wedding, 39 years ago on June 13, because he was a groomsman.

The wedding was at St. Ignatius Orthodox Church in Franklin, where Troy worshipped during his undergraduate years at Vanderbilt in Nashville.

As we arrived in Franklin, we stopped at a cute little Italian café called Zolo’s, where we sat outside and drank wine and had delicious bruchetta. Franklin is a quaint little town nestled amongst rolling hills, horse farms, and hidden homes of Nashville’s country music stars. (Kenny Chesney lives near the church.) Lots of Civil War markers are scattered along the roadside and in the town itself.

The church sits in a valley, named “Grace Valley” by Father Gordon Walker, the pastor emeritus, who still lives in a house next to the church with his wife, Sue. There’s a beautiful little cemetery just up the hill, where a new grave is adorned with flowers from a funeral held a few days before the wedding. A reminder of the cycle of life, death, and eternal life!

Icons in tiny wooden shrines, like this one of the Resurrection in the cemetery, are scattered around the property—reminders of the presence of the saints on this holy land. Being at St. Ignatius feels a bit like being at a monastery, with its rural setting and the sound of wild turkeys (or geese?) in the background as you approach the temple for worship, or in this case, for a wedding.

Inside the church, the wedding party waits for the bride to join them on the solea.

The “Dance of Isaiah” around a table that bears the Cross and the Gospels marks the first steps the couple takes as husband and wife. This Dance is an image of our life in Christ: the Cross leads us, the Gospel on the table is our sun, and we revolve around it.

The newlyweds process out of the church as the congregation sings, “God grant you many years!”

One of Troy’s three sisters, Hannah, is my Goddaughter. So I had to steal a moment with her and Sophie, my 6-year-old Goddaughter who came with her family from Memphis for the wedding. (yes, the sun was bright in our eyes!)

Later Sophie made a great effort to reach the rope pulls and ring the bells outside the church. They sound so beautiful in the valley, their peals bouncing off the surrounding hills, proclaiming the joy of Troy, Taya, and their friends and family on their wedding day!

We were sad that we couldn’t be in two places at once on Saturday, but we had to miss Peter and Mary Katherine McKelroy’s wedding in Laurel, Mississippi, the same day as Troy and Taya’s! Here are Peter and Mary Katherine at a party back in December. May God grant them many years!

Father Basil (my husband) and I stayed over in Nashville and returned to St. Ignatius for Liturgy on Sunday morning, where we enjoyed visiting with old friends we hadn’t seen in many years, like my “Twitter buddies”—Deacon Michael Hyatt and his wife, Gail, and Anne Marie McCollum and her family, who spent a few years with us at St. John in Memphis while her husband did his medical training. On our way out of town, we stopped for lunch at another quaint little place on Main Street in Franklin, H.R.H. Dumplin’s. Father enjoyed the chicken and dumplings, and I had the delicious chicken poppy seed casserole. Two doors down was a Starbucks, so we were set for our road trip back to Memphis.

On the way home I reflected on Sunday morning’s worship service at St. Ignatius. On the Orthodox calendar, it was the Sunday of the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council of Nicea.

Father Stephen Rogers, the pastor, (left) spoke briefly about the 361 bishops who attended the council in 325, to address the heresy of Arianism, which said that Jesus wasn’t fully God, but was a created being. As Father Stephen spoke about the brave and holy men who gathered to defend and clearly define the faith handed down to them from the beginning, I thought about the timeliness of his words. And of this celebration of those holy men this week. Why this week? Six auxiliary bishops of the Antiochian Orthodox Church (in America) will travel to Damascus, Syria at the invitation of His Beatitude IGNATIUS IV, Patriarch of Antioch and all of the East. They will meet with His Beatitude on June 3rd and June 4th to discuss the decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch dated February 24th, 2009. (You can read more about the issue here.) And here.

These are difficult times for our church, and I hope that all Christians—and especially Orthodox Christians—will join us in prayers for clarity, peace, and unity of the Church.

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