The Church of the Resurrection in Miami was filled to the brim as Alberto Cutie gave his first sermon since being received as a Episcopalian. Some in the congregation were members of the press. It is expected that he will begin the process of being received as an Episcopal priest, thought that may take a year or more of discernment and preparation in advance of the event.
The Miami Herald reports that the church was standing room only and that he was greeted with a standing ovation and cheers.
Inside the tiny Episcopal Church of the Resurrection of Biscayne Park, more than 300 people -- more than three times the normal attendance -- turned out to greet him for Sunday morning service.
Cutié looked out at the crowd and said, ``I am humbled by your presence here.''
At his new Biscayne Park church, Cutié delivered a sermon that spoke of common themes -- God's love, faith and perseverance -- and tossed in a few lighter comments referring to his departure from the Catholic church.
At one point, Cutié spoke of a captain lost at sea for so long he ran out of water for his crew. Another ship came by and told the ship's crew to lower their buckets. The captain thought this was crazy.
Except, it turns out, the ship had wandered into an area with fresh water.
It was a theme he returned to several times -- the love of God is all around. But first we must lower our buckets.
During another part of his sermon, Cutié referred to a note, one he didn't have with him then because, ``right now, my stuff is in storage.''
The crowd laughed.
He continued, ``They didn't give me much time to pack.''
Cutié closed his sermon saying, ``Church is about living in the spirit of God, and the spirit of God is love.''
What followed was more clapping and more picture taking. The hall, which held about 300, overflowed with people, with latecomers forced to stand.
The AP reports:
"If love was his mistake, then I'll still support him. Love makes the world go round," said Ysset DeCarlo, 44. She brought along her 17-year-old daughter Stephanie, who made her confession to Cutie for her confirmation.
Cutie received a standing ovation and told several jokes, quipping that "my stuff is in storage." He didn't directly address his relationship with his girlfriend.
"The spirit of God has been with me," he said. "And I'm going to tell you something: God is the only one we follow."
He also said church was about seeking God, not people, and added: "Church is about forgiveness."
The Church of the Resurrection is a church that has experienced decline and Bishop Frade has targeted the parish for a concerted effort at revitalization, asking other area Episcopal churches to assist. While some in attendance came from other Episcopal parishes, it appears that many came out of curiosity or to support Cutie. The Herald quoted one of them:
Among them was Fabio Gomez, 60, of Miami Beach, who said he hadn't been inside a church for five years. But he came Sunday and sat all the way in the back.
He came ``to show my support for Father Alberto to keep going with the church.''
Afterward, Cutié spoke with churchgoers in a separate luncheon area where parishioners hugged him, kissed him and posed with him for photographs.
Cutie was accompanied by his fiancee, Ruhama Buni Canellis, whom he introduced to the congregation at the reception.
There is some analysis of what this may mean for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese found here in a Miami Herald editorial.