Islanders wishing to get married or renew their vows will have the opportunity to do so on Valentine’s Day, when two island faith communities will host Let’s Get Married, an All-Island Marriage Equality Celebration.
The event is open to anyone who would like to make such a commitment, but same-gender couples, many of whom have been waiting a long time to get married, are especially welcome, organizers say. Rev. Bruce Chittick of the Burton Community Church and Rev. Carmen McDowell of the Vashon Island Unitarian Fellowship will perform the ceremonies for free.
Both pastors note they are pleased to offer such an event and came up with the idea — McDowell’s brainchild — following the fall Shelter the Flame gathering and the legalization of same-sex marriage in Washington.
“We’re so excited, and we wanted to say thank you to the island for being such a supportive community and standing on the side of love,” McDowell said.
The ministers will perform a ceremony for everyone involved, McDowell said, but each couple will profess their vows individually. People wishing to marry must have obtained a marriage license by Monday, Chittick noted. All people wishing to participate should contact McDowell before the event.
At the end of last week, three couples had stepped up to be married, and others had expressed interesting in renewing their vows, McDowell said.
The pastors would like to meet the couples individually before the ceremony, Chittick said. Typically, when performing marriage ceremonies, pastors like to provide some pre-marital counseling, he said, but because many same-sex couples have waited such a long time to get married, that kind of counseling is not so important in this situation.
Chittick and McDowell noted they are friends from their seminary days at Seattle University School of Theology and Ministry, and Chittick said he is happy to be working together for this event.
“We share building space, and we share a lot of philosophies on justice. … For both of our congregations this is about justice. And it’s a celebration of love,” Chittick said.
Following the ceremony, people will be invited to gather for a reception, with cake and toasts to happiness. All people are welcome to attend the event. “Straight, gay, it doesn’t matter,” Chittick said.
McDowell noted that the last few months have been hard on the island, with the loss of three young people and much grief. As faith communities, McDowell said, they want to look beyond that pain.
“We want to raise our eyes above the horizon and look at what’s good,” she said. “We want to celebrate love.”
Marriage ceremonies will begin at 6 p.m. Thursday at Burton Community Church, and a reception will follow at Lewis Hall, behind the church, at 7 p.m. For more information, email VIUFRSVP@gmail.com or contact Chittick at 353-5758 or McDowell at (425) 765-9064.