What Bishop Curry’s Royal Sermon Could Be Like: A Conversation with Scott Gunn
by Hugo Olaiz, associate editor of Latino/Hispanic resources for Forward Movement
There is tremendous excitement in the Episcopal Church because of the announcement that Presiding Bishop Michel B. Curry will preach the sermon at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding, to be held next Saturday at Saint George’s Chapel in Windsor Castle, England. The event will be broadcast live all over the world, to an audience estimated to be in the hundreds of millions. In this interview, I ask the Rev. Scott Gunn, Executive Director of Forward Movement, for his reflections and predictions about this momentous event.
Hugo: What was your reaction when you heard that Bishop Michael Curry will deliver the sermon at the upcoming wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle?
Scott: At first, I thought it must be fake news. Then I realized it was true, so I immediately thought about the evangelism opportunities this brings. Millions of people will Google “Episcopal Church” next Saturday. I hope every congregation gets its website ready for extra traffic. And I hope episcopalchurch.org is updated for the occasion as well. People might actually show up in churches on Sunday morning because of what they hear, so we should be ready.
Hugo: I wonder if Bishop Curry’s charismatic style will clash with the solemnity and gravitas that we tend to associate with royal events. One would assume that when they asked him to preach, they knew what they were getting into.
Scott: Sure, they must have known. And I’m sure the royals’ people talk with Curry’s people: “You know, he does go on a bit.” My guess is that he’ll use a text for a sermon like this and more-or-less stick to it. That said, I do hope they have a contingency plan if the service runs a few minutes late! For one thing, the Queen is famous for insisting that services move along, so he won’t want to cross Her Majesty.
Hugo: Bishop Curry is a master storyteller who often uses anecdotes and humor. Do you think we will see some of that in his sermon?
Scott: Of course. The man is 100% joy. You can’t take that away. So there will be jokes and relentless hope.
Hugo: Bishop Curry loves to quote the Bible, Maya Angelou, and a rich tradition of African-American hymnody and poetry, from early spirituals to the civil rights era. Do you think he may include any of that?
Scott: Don’t be surprised if everyone at St. George’s Chapel is singing “There is a balm in Gilead” next Saturday. He’ll almost certainly invoke African-American spirituals, and I have a feeling this part of why he was asked to preach: his perspective is different than some will expect.
Hugo: I was thinking Bishop Curry’s deep baritone voice and cadence would be perfect for reciting the anaphoric repetition of the word “love” that we read in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. I can also imagine him taking about love, forgiveness, and reconciliation. Do you agree?
Scott: There is a 100% chance of him talking about love. If you were making a drinking game (which would be root beer, in my case, or maybe coffee, so early in the morning), you’d want to make everyone take a drink on “If it’s not about love, it’s not about God.”
Hugo: Bishop Curry loves to walk up and down the nave as he preaches. One would assume that he will have to deliver this sermon from the lectern, correct?
Scott: Hmm. Good question. This would be a good thing for the London bookmakers to take bets on. My money is on “he steps out of the pulpit.”
Hugo: At the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the preacher spoke for exactly seven minutes. Can you imagine Bishop Curry preaching for under ten minutes?
Scott: He will try. God raised Jesus from the dead, so maybe God can help Bishop Curry preach less than ten minutes.
Hugo: The wedding starts on Saturday at 7:00 a.m., Eastern Time. Are you, your wife Sherilyn, and your dog George planning to watch the event live?
Scott: You know, I wasn’t going to watch it. But now I’ll be live-tweeting with bells on. George and I will probably be on Twitter (@GeorgeTDog and @ScottAGunn). Sherilyn is going to be soaking it all in. George will be eager to see if the Queen’s corgis make an appearance. I’m trying to prepare him for disappointment.
Scott: Can I ask you a couple of questions, Hugo? Do you think people in Latin countries will pay much attention to the wedding, or is this an Anglo thing?
Hugo: England’s history in Latin America has been marked by attempts to invade and pillage, sometimes with success, and many Argentines are still bitter about the 1982 Falklands War. Despite all this, I am sure that many will pay attention. I predict millions in Latin America will watch the event.
Scott: I know you like very creative liturgies. How are you feeling about a 1662 traditional liturgy?
Hugo: I am very forgiving with the traditional marriage ceremony, especially when used in the context of Gothic architecture, gold-embroidered vestments, and Received Pronunciation English. Even in the U.S. we have civil institutions that perform marriages using archaic thou’s and thee’s. I endured them (gracefully!) when I got married at the Marriage Bureau of the District of Columbia—why shouldn’t Prince Harry do likewise at St. George’s Chapel?
Scott: Lastly, if someone wants to talk to us church folk about the royal wedding, how do you think we could use those questions as opportunities for evangelism?
Hugo: We could tell them that we, as Anglicans, believe in a God who makes things new. In the past, God inspired both Britain and the U.S. to abolish slavery. God is now inspiring many nations of the Commonwealth to work for social justice, racial reconciliation, and care of the environment. Our God is a progressive God, and so is our church!
Scott: Thanks for the interview!