Beloved Wedding Guests,
As spring gives way to summer, we are writing to inform you about unexpected changes to our wedding. This season of uncertainty has forced people all over the world to drastically alter their daily lives and to adjust plans, especially for large gatherings. Our wedding, which was scheduled for June 13th at Calvary Episcopal Church in Memphis, was to be a grand affair; hundreds of invitations had been printed, florists were booked, choir anthems were rehearsed, and wedding cakes were tasted, as our guests made arrangements to come to Memphis from far and wide. Back in January, when we sat down together to share what was most important to us in our wedding, two themes emerged: we wanted to celebrate a liturgy that would draw people into the unconditional love of God, and we also wanted to share that celebration with as many of the people we loved as possible.
However, the spring of 2020 saw the spread of COVID-19 across the globe. The unpredictability and fear that accompanied the virus affected our communities, our families, and our churches. When Holy Week and Easter services left the pews empty to keep worshippers safe, we knew that the liturgy of our wedding would likely need to look different too. We debated pushing the date back or splitting up the civil and religious ceremonies. In the end, neither option really appealed to us, and deep down we knew we were so very ready for this covenant with God and one another.
Then, on a warm April day, we went for a (socially distanced) stroll at Elmwood Cemetery, close to our homes in Memphis. Walking and talking among the stone monuments, we took turns sharing our anxieties about the wedding. Stepping through the quiet markers of lives past, we found the gravestones of Sister Constance and her companions. During an outbreak of yellow fever that ravaged Memphis in 1878, these Episcopal nuns faithfully cared for the sick and dying at the cost of their own lives. The irony was not lost on us. There among the trees, we offered a prayer written in commemoration of their sacrifice:
We give you thanks and praise, O God of compassion, for the heroic witness of Constance and her companions, who, in a time of plague and pestilence, were steadfast in their care for the sick and dying, and loved not their own lives, even unto death: Inspire in us a like love and commitment to those in need, following the example of our Savior Jesus Christ; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and forever. Amen.
We grieved as we felt our future wedding memories slipping away. We reflected on our callings: Meredith to the priesthood and Jackson to medicine. Caring for others in the most dire of circumstances is at the heart of each of our professions. In the end, both of us felt a high degree of responsibility for making plans that would protect our community, loved ones, and the most vulnerable among us. This prompted us to make the difficult decision to celebrate our marriage in a much more intimate setting with only our immediate family, and sadly, without a crowd of friends and relatives in the pews of a packed church.
Even now we can’t know exactly how our wedding will look. This invitation reflects the wedding we wanted to have with all of you, but can no longer safely celebrate up close. As we fill these envelopes, we feel sadness at this loss but are trusting in the abiding love of Christ in our lives. The mystery of the sacraments is that God shows up at any time, in any place, with ordinary people. Although the day will look different, we have no doubt that God will be present and praised as we commit to life with one another. On June 6th, in the chancel at Christ Church Cathedral in Nashville, we will be holding all of you close in spirit, wrapped in your love and care for us. You have prayed for us, raised us, taught us, and loved us in so many ways; for that we will never fully be able to express our gratitude.
These days are difficult, and we do not know what the future will bring. We pray this invitation will be a reminder of how much we cherish each of you; please know that it carries our hopes for a day in the future where we can all celebrate together face-to-face. You can stay up to date on those plans on our website at meredithandjackson.com.
We know that the love that has brought us to this moment will go forward with us into the future. Thanks for taking the journey with us.
Meredith and Jackson
May 7, 2020