Rev. Klockers: A wedding ceremony never to be forgotten
Rev. Walter Klockers
| July 29, 2021 1:00 AM
Many years ago, I began my ministry at a church in Texas. Before I accepted the call, I was told that a wedding was already on the books and the ceremony would occur on my first day of service. This was scheduled for an early evening in the month of December.
I was asked if I would have any problems with the bride’s pastor performing the ceremony. He was Baptist and the groom’s family were members of the Lutheran church.
I said I would have no issue but required that I would participate in some fashion. I envisioned my primary role as serving as host to the visiting pastor, and making his job as easy as possible. That said, I would be limited in this capacity because I was also new to the environment.
Upon arrival to the church, I began the process of quickly becoming familiar with the setting.
First, I was introduced to the pastor. He explained that he had the entire order of service printed in his three-ring binder, including the homily.
I reminded myself that – being December – we would have the shortest of days when it comes to available sunlight.
So, I checked with the photographer on the use of flash. I also discussed with her when and where she would be allowed to photograph.
Then the unforeseen happened. All the lights went out.
The sun was setting; there was ever-growing darkness.
The altar candles and candelabra were lit; however, they didn’t produce a great deal of light.
In desperation, everyone searched for a flashlight. None could be found.
I asked some folks sitting in the pews if they might have a small light on their key chain that we could borrow.
As luck would have it, the father of the groom had one. As he took it off his key ring, and handed it to me, I did a double take. I was confused. He was closely seated to a woman who was not his wife.
I brought the tiny light back to the sacristy. Upon entering that space, I met the same face. My jaw dropped as the real father of the groom explained that I must have bumped into his identical twin brother. We shared a moment of laughter.
The sanctuary became increasingly dark. The ceremony was delayed. We needed more time to figure things out.
I had the Baptist pastor practice reading his text in front of the altar. The candles did not provide enough light. He was fairly short, so I tried using the penlight to illumine the pages. To do so, I positioned myself over his right shoulder. That looked a bit ridiculous, but it seemed to work well enough.
The breaker box was finally discovered and reset. That made no difference. I asked if there was another light source available. Fortunately, up in the choir loft, located in the back of the church, there was a large spotlight used for Christmas pageants and chancel dramas.
It was enlisted into service; however, the white-hot light was blinding. The people in the pews could see us well, but we couldn’t see anything beyond the chancel area.
After testing the spotlight, I met the groom and groomsmen in the sacristy. The groom was as white as a sheet and sweating profusely. He looked like a wet noodle. At first, I attributed this to nerves, but soon learned he was running a high fever. (He eventually was diagnosed with strep throat).
Quite naturally, we did not start on time – far from it. Eventually, everyone was updated on the necessary changes.
Except for the candles that were lit up front, everyone in the sanctuary sat in absolute darkness.
The spotlight turned on and the wedding began.
The organ was located in the loft, so the organist had a small lamp that she always used. She began playing the entrance music.
The men exited the sacristy. They positioned themselves, turning toward the back of the church, awaiting the bride’s entrance out of the darkness.
Because of the angle and position of the binder, the Baptist pastor needed the penlight. The spotlight created shadows. So I positioned myself over the pastor’s shoulder with the illuminated pen light.
The music intensified. Everyone stood. The bride entered and moments later the spotlight moved away from us and onto the young woman and her father. They paced themselves forward.
I could see that she was smiling. This wasn’t just any smile. It was glorious. Her face was absolutely radiant, beaming with extreme happiness and joy, in spite of all the setbacks. I was both wholeheartedly impressed and extremely relieved.
The bride was determined that nothing would put a damper on that day.
Things ran smoothly for the service until the spotlight moved to the soloist. She opened her mouth and instantly there came a thunderous sound. However, the rumbling was not from her. It was like an earthquake.
I couldn’t make out much of what she was singing. No one else seemed to be panicking. I tried suppressing the sheer terror I was feeling and whispered to the pastor: “What on earth is that noise?” He replied quite matter-of-factly, “Space-X.” I had no idea what Space-X was until I was given an explanation at the reception. Turns out they tested rocket engines just outside of the city limits. (That was ridiculously close, in my opinion).
Thankfully, the reception was held in a place other than the church. It was there that a lady exclaimed to me, “That was the most beautiful wedding ceremony that I had ever witnessed!” Apparently, the unique use of lighting was breathtaking.
I will always remember that bride. When the world around her seemed to be going to pieces, she was undeterred.
I wish each of us could at least capture a small portion of that today.
Walter is pastor of Immanuel Lutheran Church in Moses Lake and has served as parish pastor for more than 30 years.