29 October 2014

An Innovative Double-Arras (Wedding Coins) Ceremony

There are two traditional ways of performing the ceremony. I have dispensed with both. Dribbling coins into each other's hands is quite risky (dropping coins is seen as bad luck) and the cleric and partners passing the coins among themselves seems to be outdated. Instead, I have created an 'arras-exchange ceremony' wherein both partners commit to a life of stewardship. 

After the ring ceremony, two trays, boxes, or pouches/purses of coins are brought to the altar. The Celebrant may say 

All things come from you, O Lord.
And of your own, we give you.

The Celebrant blesses the coins, using one of these two forms.

A long form for the blessing of the wedding coins

We give you thanks, O Father, for all your blessings:
For the bounty of gifts, talents, and knowledge;
for values, wisdom, experience, and expertise;
for reason, memory, and skill;
and for who we are and what we bring in offering.
Bless + these coins, O Lord,
as signs of the spiritual and temporal blessings
wherewith you enriched N and N;
and as they commit themselves to a life of stewardship,
daily renew in them the choicest gifts in your Holy Spirit,
and grant them the abundance of your grace,
a spirit of generosity and hospitality,
and such creativity, inspiration, and compassion,
that they may sanctify, use, and multiply these gifts
to the advancement of your Kingdom and the spread of the Gospel,
and to the attainment of everlasting life.
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. 

A short form for the blessing of the wedding coins

Bless + these coins, O Lord,
as signs of the spiritual and temporal blessings 
wherewith you enriched N and N;
and as they commit themselves to a life of stewardship,
grant them the abundance of your grace, 
that they may use and multiply these gifts
to the attainment of everlasting life.
through Christ our Lord. Amen. 

The Celebrant may say

N and N, be good and faithful stewards of each other and of God’s gifts.

Each partner gives the other the coins, and repeats these words after the Celebrant

N, I give you these coins as a pledge of my dedication and concern for your welfare, and as a sign of my commitment to our marriage, in the Name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 

Each partner may respond, saying after the Celebrant

N, I accept these coins, and the dedication, love, and support you offer, in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.  

If desired, a symbolic tithe from each each box, tray, or pouch/purse may be given to the Celebrant.

The service continues with the Pronouncement. 

Joshua Ligan 2014.
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26 October 2014

On the middle finger

In 3rd grade I sat at my desk reading a ditto. Across from me sat a classmate named Freddy Goerlitzer. It’s odd that I still remember his name. We quietly began our seatwork, and reading the instructions, I pointed the words out with my middle finger. Freddy saw this, raised his hand, and yelled, “Mrs. Rode, Mrs. Rode, Josh stuck out his middle finger! Josh stuck out his middle finger!”

Outraged, Mrs. Rode bellowed, “In the hall... NOW!”

I was shocked. What had I done? What was so wrong about pointing with the middle finger?

My name was written on the chalkboard, and I was given a thorough berating in the hall. “I know you come from a Christian family, and this, with all your knowledge of the love of God, is totally unexpected. I am disappointed in you.” She wagged a finger in my face, continued berating my Christian background and my family, and told me how bad I was for pointing with my middle finger. Freddy also accused me of pointing it at him. The tip of my finger may have been pointed in his direction, but it lacked the intent of insult or non-verbal injury to his dignitas and fama.

Now that I think about it, I actually feel sorry for Mrs. Rode. What was her problem with the Church and Christians? But I digress.

In my shock, I stood there in the hall with my mouth agape, not knowing if I should defend myself. I didn’t ask what I did wrong or what pointing the middle finger meant. I was totally clueless, but she presumed I knew what that gesture meant. She had never bothered to ask if I knew the meaning.  And I simply accepted her verdict.

I do come from a good Christian family, and an immigrant family at that, and they did not teach me the idiosyncrasies of American body language. For many Asian American families, the home is practically a cultural capsule. Step inside, and one is in the old country. Step outside, and one is in the United States. The language spoken at home may be English, sometimes with another language mixed in, but culturally one remains in the old country. I was this sheltered from the realities of American life.

For many East Asians, pointing the middle finger has only begun to take on the American meaning. Many still point at things (although it is more polite to use one’s hand or a full swoop of a hand), words, and even people with their middle finger. I shudder when an old lady points to something with her middle finger at the supermarket, because I remember that moment  the cultural barrier came down when as a child.

That day, I went home, cried, and told my parents what happened at school. My mother, being a devout Protestant, blankly looked at me as I told her I was scolded for pointing with my middle finger. Flummoxed, she asked my father, “Whatever does that mean?” In a hushed tone, my father, also a devout Protestant who lived in the fear of an ever-watching Almighty God, whispered, “It means ‘Fuck you’.”

We all gasped over tea. My Roman Catholic aunt choked on her tea and violently coughed. “Aba, yung ang meaning?” Lo, is that the meaning?

But something I do wish my parents had done was to speak to my teacher. They did nothing to confront an injustice. We let someone else define who I am. We accepted her truth. And I’m not going to say it was a racist incident. It was simply a cultural misunderstanding. This is American multiculturalism.

Sometimes, it makes me shudder. Is this how badly we think of other people? Have we, as an American people, become so judgmental that we transmit our negativity to others? Do we assume the worst of others? Are we that inclined to think of others so unjustly? When did the presumption of innocence cease as an American cultural value? Or are we entitled to galloping around the village on a witch-hunt?

That day, among many days throughout my childhood, was a day when my eyes were opened. I had lost a bit of my own innocence. Sometimes, I wish never had.