The Wedding of Jessica Anne Cioffoletti and William Noble Smyth
The Wedding of Jessica Anne Cioffoletti and William Noble Smyth, Jr.
Ah, my Junior Highs, God bless them, they're keeping me alive with their requests for the old pastor, who once shepherded them to the four corners of the metropolis, to celebrate with them their signal moments of maturity, a wedding here, a baptism there. So in the course of a very rainy season in the Northeast I was invited to participate in a wedding service in the Church of the Immaculate Conception. Tuckahoe NY, a community squeezed between Bronxville and Eastchester in Westchester, Friday, June 26th, at 3:30 PM. Bill Smyth the younger did the inviting, along with his fiancée, Jessica Cioffoletti. They met in New York City when both worked for a trade publication, Bill as an editor and Jess in graphic design. This past fall Bill and Jess spent a weekend with her parents in Hancock NY, where Antonella and John and their children have camped for thirty years of Labor Day Weekends at Kingswood, a New York Annual Conference (think UMC) property. There Bill met a camp booster named Don Kirby who told him things he never knew about Bob Howard, Austin Armitstead, and Grace Church.
The marriage service began only slightly later than scheduled, and it was neither the bride nor the groom's fault. The liturgy of the Word preceded the Sacrament of Marriage. The Eucharist was not celebrated. Fr. Paul Waddell presided. Pastor Robert Howard prayed a Methodist prayer following the exchange of vows and rings. Among the attendants were five other Grace Church confirmands, three of whom are identified in the photos that follow. But I did not manage to focus in on Jim and Steve LoBello, Bill's groomsmen and virtual cousins, with my camera. Their Dad, Bob LoBello, also evaded my lens. Nor did I catch in a shot Jake Smyth, the groom's nephew, the Ring Bearer. And I might as well confess some other deficiencies in this report, no photos of: the Man of Honor, Jessica's lifelong friend, James Stabile, and Jessica's grandmother, Rosa Palma.
Here's my message for Bill(y) and Jessica, delivered now electronically, if not then liturgically:
A Grand Adventure
I’ve sung the tune before, too often. So, rather than bore you and everyone else again, let me say it quickly, “Life is short,” an observation, understand, from a seventy-seven year old man. A thought reinforced in this moment as I look upon a young groom and his bride… and Bill, Billy in my Junior Highs, was hinting at a complaint only yesterday, or so it seems, when I proposed to shepherd the youth group to which he belonged to an unidentified location for an undisclosed activity, and Billy was worried it might be boring and religious. I asked Billy a rhetorical question, “When did I ever take you somewhere and you didn’t have a good time?”
Bill, Jessica, not Pastor Howard, now proposes to go with you on a grand adventure, the best one ever, a loving, sharing relationship we call marriage. And I’m sure, Bill, that you have none of the second thoughts you expressed twenty-one years ago to Pastor Howard.
And your grand adventure together will pass quickly, too quickly. So savor the moments. Do you need a Biblical text to back up my advice? Probably not, but I’ll give you one anyway, from another preacher, one in King Solomon’s court, Ecclesiastes 9:9: "Enjoy life with the wife whom you love, all the days of your vain life that are given you under the sun, because that is your portion in life and in your toil at which you toil under the sun.” Enjoy life with the wife whom you love. Many of the rest of us here this afternoon ought also heed the king’s preacher’s exhortation.
Sure, that means trips to the other side of the world. But mostly it means being together, on, for instance, a late weekend morning; taking a stroll through the park hand in hand; throwing your arms around each other with your baby/babies between; watching out for the other generation, the one ahead of you, as they yield to the erosions of time; visiting friends, his and hers; maybe even going to a Mets game together… well, maybe not. I mean those ordinary moments with which our days are full, to be there in them with each other and for each other. You can do it. You have admirable examples on either side for the family you are starting.
Jesus turns the thought of Ecclesiastes (which for the most part is a little on the downside, about making the best of a basically sad life) text into a hymn of thanksgiving for God’s goodness, telling us in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew Chapter 6, to smell the flowers. Only Jesus puts it this way: “Consider the lilies.”
Do that hand in hand, lovers and friends, and the grand adventure on which you now embark will be… a grand adventure.
The rains, already alluded to, came; but not until most of the guests and wedding party were dry in their cars and headed to Astoria for an evening reception at Water's Edge. There we wined and dined, laughed and caught up on each other's progress through this mortal life. Before sitting down to filet mignon on a bed of mashed potatoes, I offered this prayer:
Most gracious God, we give you thanks for your tender love in making us a covenant people through our Savior Jesus Christ and for consecrating in his name the marriage covenant of Jessica and Bill. Grant that their love for each other may reflect the love of Christ for us and grow from strength to strength as they faithfully serve you in the world. Defend them from every enemy. Lead them into all peace. Let their love for each other be a seal upon their hearts, a mantle about their shoulders, and a crown upon their heads. Bless them in their work and in their companionship; in their sleeping and in their waking; in their joys and in their sorrows; in their lives and in their deaths. Finally, by your grace, bring them and all of us to that table where your saints feast for ever in your heavenly home; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Water's Edge venue provides a spectacular view of midtown Manhattan's skyline. The restaurant is situated opposite the United Nations complex, near the location from which years and years ago anti-communist Cubans launched a bazooka at Che Gueverra holding forth in the General Assembly (the missile fell 200 feet short of its target). No such violent thoughts occupied us at the cocktail hour and the reception; but the approaching night, the shadowed high-rises and the setting sun had half of the guests out on the balcony oohing and aahing in appreciation for the explosion of colors. See for yourself.