Joy & fear

The wedding day 'was scary' admits pastor

Just days after performing what he calls Canada’s first legal same-sex marriages, Rev Brent Hawkes is calling on mainstream churches everywhere to begin reading the banns and performing same-sex weddings.

“It’s very important that they know they can read the banns. This congregation cannot be just seen as an isolated congregation.”

Hawkes, senior pastor at the Metropolitan Community Church Of Toronto, performed a double same-sex wedding ceremony Jan 14 following the ancient – and legally recognized – Christian tradition of the publication of the banns, in which marriage is preceded by reciting the names of those wishing to wed for three consecutive Sundays.

Hawkes says gay-positive United Church and Anglican congregations must set the pace, and adds that some Unitarians have already expressed interest.

Hawkes was nervous on the big day – and it turned out to be a nerve-wracking one for him.

He was assaulted during his regular 11am service (the weddings were scheduled for 2pm in the afternoon).

“The lawyer says no details because of legal stuff. A woman came to the front and started yelling about Jesus condemning homosexuality. I went to speak to her and I was assaulted.”

Hawkes owns a bullet proof vest, but refuses to discuss any security precautions taken that day. Police officers were everywhere.

“It was scary, there’s no question,” says Hawkes. “The rumours that were going around, the nasty e-mails and things were coming in…. I felt very relieved when the wedding was over.

Some 80 media outlets covered the weddings of Anne and Elaine Vautour and Joe Varnell and Kevin Bourassa.

There were film crews from as far away as Germany and Japan. And almost 1,000 people crowded in for the service (none were turned away, and overflow was seated in the social lounge which was equipped with video and audio feeds).

A congratulatory letter from Governor-General Adrienne Clarkson was read out; Canadian Alliance MPs and the Canadian Conference Of Catholic Bishops later blasted Clarkson.

A small group of protesters stood outside. And Hawkes says he is astounded by his own congregation. “The congregation really rose to the occasion.” Many were asked, at the last minute, to help with crowd control and ushering.

Only a few days after the fete, an Ontario government lawyer informed the church that the marriage certificates would be rejected. Lawyer Douglas Elliott has announced the church and the couples will go ahead with a lawsuit. You can donate to the MCC Toronto Legal Challenge Fund at 115 Simpson Ave, Toronto M4K 1A1.

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