The Wedding of Meredith Lynn Wilson and Robert Jared Petry
The Wedding of Meredith Ellen Wilson and Robert Jared Petry
Saturday, July 30, 2005 at Two-thirty O'clock at Grace United Methodist Church, Valley Stream, New York
One of the very special gratifications of the office of a pastor is to be remembered and called upon to help celebrate moments of passage in the lives of young people the arc of whose lives has been traced, sometimes before they were. Rob Petry came into my view in his elementary school years. He and his two sisters, Kim and Karen, belonged (at different times) to my Junior High Youth Fellowship, the motto for which was, "Join the Junior Highs and See the World." Which meant, the World, that is, metropolitan New York. I suffered and, occasionally, was even amused at, their high and low jinx on weekends away at one or another of three Methodist camps. Rob, the quiet, composed, laid-back soul, surprised me by his initial pursuit of a career in newspaper publishing; and, then, by his election to the office of Chief of the Valley Stream Fire Department. I say "surprised" mostly because he is one of those who, like my own mother, as my father-in-law phrased it, "doesn't put everything in the front window." I knew Rob was smart and popular, but I underestimated his reach and his drive.
Some two years out in the Connecticut pasture of my retirement I fielded Email from Rob, who was wondering if I would be available to participate in his marriage service to Garden City elementary school teacher, Meredith Wilson. I replied to this invitation immediately, with two words, "Love to." Now it's history, and a joyful and sentimental (for me) history at that. Herewith you will find pictures and texts from the wedding.
The wedding service was a splendid event, the bridal train, elegant; the bridal party procession filled with sisters and brothers and friends and nieces and nephews; Lainie Spencer's solo of "Ave Maria," touching; the late July afternoon, very warm but the room air-conditioned cool; moms and dads, looking on with moistened eyes; and the Valley Stream Fire Department, present in good number and in uniform. Pastor John Cole led the service. The old pastor, whom John graciously included, offered the following message to and for the bride and groom.
When Sentiment and Reality Agree
One of the last times you were in this room, Rob, you weren’t here, up front. You were standing along the back wall, in uniform, the uniform of the Valley Stream Fire Department for which you were serving as chief. You and your buddies, mine too, had come to the church that December evening in 2001 to show solidarity with your Protestant Chaplain, Pastor Howard. You guys scared the wits out of the ecclesiastical functionary who was chairing the meeting. I suspect he thought he might never get out of the building alive. Little did he know or understand what a patient and civil soul, you were and are, even after you spoke that night on my behalf… as you did six months later (I have photos to prove it!) at our farewell in the Plattdeutsche ballroom. Thank you for being there and being there for an old pastor.
Now it's my turn to be there for you.
This special moment is full of sentiment, and not just for the way we were. This special moment is filled with expectation. This special moment is overflowing with hope for the future, two lives, Meredith and Rob, now officially committed to each other, the years stretching out before you in love and joy, with each other and with those others you welcome into your home, growing together, lives even more deeply entwined, richer each in his or her own life by the other. The tears that moisten a few eyes on this special day are not from sorrow; they arise from the beauty, the splendid beauty of the hope you keep and we keep for you… because we know just how fragile that hope can be.
The vows you will soon exchange make that clear: “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health… until we are parted by death.” No one can accuse the ritual makers of being “cock-eyed optimists.” The resonant theme to this service can be summed up in a phrase out of the Methodist ritual of the past. Right at the beginning of my pastoral career, I used to say as the Book of Worship told me, that “love and loyalty alone will avail as the foundation of a happy and enduring home.” Love, sure; but did you catch that “loyalty”? Sturdy stuff. Like the love which you have chosen to lift up from I Corinthians 13: it’s not for babes; it’s for strong people, who know who they are and what they need. Forbearing love. Giving love, giving until it seems there is nothing left. Patient love. Elbowroom giving love. Cheek-turning love. Real love. Love that can face the reality of our world, in its terror and its beauty, and not flinch, but conquer.
Now it’s up to you, to go together into that world, equipped as you are with love and hope and faith. Long years ago, Rob, I taught you your confirmation lessons, had you memorize, in fact, I Corinthians 13, spoke with you about the meanings and applications of that love Jesus expects of us. I never, or at least never thought, I oversimplified it. But I certainly hope I left you with the impression that if there is to be a future for our world and if we are to participate in that future with any kind of gladness and satisfaction, the love with which God loves us is the love we shall share with each other and all others.
Your CCD lessons at St. Christopher’s in Baldwin surely insisted, Meredith, on the necessity of your manifesting that same strong love.
For the world’s sake, yes, but for your own sakes too. The two of you bring to this moment a rich treasure of family and personal experience. As I watched the two of you walk toward me that day at Port Jeff, I thought, and then said to you, “You are made for each other.” The fire chief and police officer-to be and the schoolteacher, more than intelligent, wise, the calm and quiet fellow who never puts everything in the front window, the assured and organized young woman who knows what she wants and it is you, Rob, she wants, that together you may make the most of your time here on earth; and, then, in the world to come, have life everlasting.
Rob and Meredith, pausing for a kiss, passed under the raised hooks of the Fire Department. The reception was held at the West Sayville Country Club beginning at 6:30 PM with drinks and hors d'oeuvres on the porch and lawn. Forty or so of the hundred seventy-five guests were staying overnight at a nearby Marriott and availed themselves of a shuttle service hired for the occasion. Firemen know how to have a ball: the dining, dancing, and partying carried on to the midnight hour, no one more obviously joyful than the normally laid-back groom. The following morning Bob and Lorraine Petry, the groom's parents, hosted a breakfast at the Marriott, including many of their friends of twenty-five years from Rob's soccer playing days.
The bride and groom flew off to Greece for a honeymoon. When they returned stateside, they returned to their home on Fenimore Street in Valley Stream.
Sequel: Jack Petry, July 2, 2006
Another of my Junior Highs has become a Daddy! Yesterday's Email brought this message from Rob Petry about his and Meredith's newborn son:
Just wanted to drop you a line and update you on things that are going on with Meredith and I. We just made an addition to our family. On July 2 at 8:37 A.M. our son Jack was born at Winthrop Hospital. He was 6 lbs. 14 oz. and 20.5 inches long. Meredith and Jack are both doing great. He even sleeps through most of the night (although I know that is too good to be true and will probably end soon). Everyone else is doing fine. My mom and dad are overjoyed to be grandparents (again). Hope all is well with you.
These two photos were attached to the Email: