Michael Curry, the flamboyant priest who stunned the royal family and British establishment with a powerful, gospel-flavored speech unlike anything ever seen at a royal wedding before, was an inspired choice to make the address at today’s service.
The Most Reverend Michael Curry, the head of the Episcopalian Church in the United States, a celebrated civil rights and LGBT activist, gave an astounding talk which rejoiced in the power of love, and referenced everything from Martin Luther King, Jesuit philosophers and “Old Solomon,” to Facebook and Twitter.
He left senior royals and British celebrities slack-jawed as he pounded the ancient lectern in St. George’s Chapel, coming perilously close to blowing out or dislodging the candles mounted upon it, telling the congregation—and an estimated 2 billion viewers worldwide—“Jesus died for us! He wasn’t getting anything out of it! He died for us!”
Curry delivered a barnstorming address peppered with informality.
At one point, as he drew breath, he pointed at Harry and Meghan and said he’d come to a close soon because, “We’ve got to get y’all married.”
Curry, does not know the couple personally, Neva Rae Fox, a spokeswoman for the Episcopal Church told The Washington Post earlier this week.
“It was my understanding that given the fact that he was the first African American bishop and is a wonderful preacher and speaker, it would be appropriate for him to be invited to speak,” Fox told The Washington Post. “The bishop is honored and thrilled to be participating.”
Curry is known for his theatrical style, and is the son of the late Rev. Kenneth Curry, an outspoken civil rights activist who helped bring an end to segregated schools in Buffalo.
He also has a stellar record in agitating for equal marital rights for LGBT people; he has often drawn parallels between the black and LGBT civil rights movements.
Curry once said that moves to restrict or ban same sex marriage “conjured up” the pain of the descendants of “African slaves, stolen from their native land, enslaved in a bitter bondage, and then even after emancipation, segregated and excluded in church and society.”
In what was, by British standards, a massive curveball of an address, Curry threw his arms in the air and threw his voice around the chapel, proclaiming rapturously, at one stage, his voice breaking with emotion: “Jesus died for us! He wasn’t getting anything out of it! Jesus did not get an honorary doctorate out of it. He died for us! That’s what love is!”
Curry opened his speech, titled, “The Power of Love,” with the words of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., who said: “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world. Love is the only way.”
The bishop then added: “There’s power in love. Don’t underestimate it. Don’t even over-sentimentalize. There is power, power in love.
“Love can help and heal when nothing else can. There’s power in love to lift up and liberate when nothing else will.
“Two young people fell in love and we all showed up.”
The Episcopal Church is part of the Anglican Communion. Meghan was baptised into the Anglican Church, which is headed by Harry’s grandmother, ahead of the wedding.
As Curry continued his powerful and uplifting sermon, some members of the royal family and the congregation were pictured slack-jawed in astonishment.
As Curry spoke of the possibilities “when love is the way” Zara Philips was pictured staring open-mouthed in amazement at the preacher.
Curry was certainly intended to be a break with tradition—and in that he excelled.
And while some guests were spotted stifling giggles, the speech was generally hailed as a masterful, refreshing and energizing change to the norm.
There were jokes too. Curry got a big laugh when at, talking about the role of fire and energy in the story of human civilisation and he said, “Fire makes it possible for us to text and Tweet and Instagram and Facebook and socially be dysfunctional with each other.”
Although Harry perhaps looked less on-board with the sermon in cutaway shots than his wife, Curry brought his crowd with him, as he taught about “sin sick souls”—but only to a certain point.
No one was quite ready for call and response in front of the queen.
When Curry, asked, “Anybody get here in a car today?” he was met with a stony silence.
He tried again, “An automobile?’
Still no one called out, and Curry remarked, “I know there was some carriages.”
It was a very different wedding address, and it fitted this very different royal wedding perfectly.