Prince Harry and Megan Markle’s wedding day bishop took the world to Black church Saturday morning, quoting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and old slave spirituals in a passionate sermon calling on the couple to drench their marriage in the power of love.
The Most Rev. Michael Curry, the first African American to preside over the Episcopal Church, wasted no time setting a fiery Black Baptist tone across the pond, barely taking the mic before opening his remarks with a quote from America’s Civil Rights icon.
“The late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, and I quote: ‘We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we discover that, we will be able to make of this old world a new world. Love is the only way.
“There’s power in love,” he added. “Do not underestimate it. Don’t even over sentimentalize it. There’s power—power in love.”
Rev. Curry went on to quote a medieval poem, the New Testament and, for the R&B Luther Vandross-loving set, what felt like snippets of the hit song, “Power of Love,” before digging into Jesus of Nazareth’s revolutionary movement “mandating people to live and love.”
Jesus insisted, Rev. Curry said, his voice and cadence rising like early Sunday morning in a Baptist pulpit, that “on these two, love of God and love of neighbor, hang all the law, all the prophets, everything that Moses wrote, everything from the holy prophets, everything in the scriptures, everything that God has been trying to tell the world. Love God, love your neighbors, and while you’re at it, love yourself.”
And then he did something that we can probably be sure has never been done in a royal wedding ever before: he gave a nod to the resiliency of America’s enslaved. Quoting the old slave spiritual, “There is a Balm in Gilead,” he drove home the power of love by making the point that enslaved blacks, even in captivity, understood why love “has the power to transform.”
“They sang a spiritual even in the midst of their captivity. It’s one that says there is a balm in Gilead, a healing balm, something that can make things right. There is a balm in Gilead to make the wounded whole. There is a balm in Gilead to heal the sin sick soul. One of the stanzas explains why, it says, if you cannot preach like Peter, you cannot pray like Paul, you just tell the love of Jesus, how he died to save us all. That’s the balm in Gilead. This way of love is the way of life. They got it.”
Rev. Curry comes by his passionate tongue honestly: he is the son of a civil rights activist who helped end school segregation in Buffalo, NY, where the Chicago-born Curry grew up. Curry, who was installed as presiding bishop of the U.S.-based Anglican Communion in 2015, carried on the tradition of seeking equality for all by opening his church’s doors to same-sex marriages—a move for which he received pushback.
Speaking to CNN after the ceremony, Curry noted that Meghan and Harry’s non-verbal communication during the nuptials made clear they understood his message and are living it, too.
“The nice thing was during the sermon we were making eye contact throughout. One of the things I’ve learned — I’ve been ordained a long time — is that when you do a wedding, talk to the couple. And their eyes and their smiles and their reactions were talking back. It was non-verbal communication throughout the whole thing,” he said. “You could watch them look at each other and even when they weren’t talking, the way they looked at each other just sent a message: These people are in love for real.”
Of course, Black Twitter wasted zero time pointing out just how colorful and down-home and absolutely perfect was Rev. Curry’s wedding address.
“Bishop Michael Curry is Meghan’s first act of royal modernization. Cut to Camilla looking confused. Welcome to Black church, Royals,” tweeted Veronica Toney.