Florida governor weds at United Methodist church

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Florida governor weds at United Methodist church

By Erik J. Alsgaard | Dec. 15, 2008 {0954}

ST. PETERSBURG — A big wedding at First United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg is not all that unusual. It is unusual, however, when bomb-sniffing dogs case the sanctuary hours before the service and state police officers seal off the streets and parking lot surrounding the church.

The Rev. David Miller (right) officiates at the wedding of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Carole Rome at First United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg. Photo courtesy of the governor’s office, department of communications. Photo #08-1070. This photo is not for use by other churches, ministries or publications.

That was the scene hours before Florida Gov. Charlie Crist married Carole Rome Dec. 12 at the downtown church.

The Friday evening wedding drew more than 200 invitation-only guests — including state politicians and a few celebrities — to the church for what many called the social event of the year.

“Governor Crist has been a lifelong member of this church,” said the Rev. David Miller, pastor of the church and the minister who performed the ceremony. “His family goes back at least four generations in this congregation. We’re just delighted to hold the wedding here.”

Miller said the wedding itself went very well. “In terms of the bride and the groom being present and treating it as a sacred worship time and fully participating in it, it was a great success,” he said.

Miller also said he enjoyed having the opportunity to preach at the wedding. Using Scripture from both the Old and New Testaments, Miller emphasized bringing God into the couple’s daily lives.

“I personally enjoyed doing a little sermon on inviting God to be with us,” he said. “I used the wedding of Cana (of Galilee) story to show the need of inviting Jesus into their relationship on a daily basis and how that would be a challenge for their schedule, but that it would be critical.”

The governor, Miller said, wanted Scripture from both Testaments as a balance. Carole, the governor’s new wife, is Jewish.

The governor received several other invitations to hold his wedding in a different church, Miller said, adding he appreciates the effort and intention of holding the service at the governor’s home church.

“I appreciate it because it would have been much simpler to do it at the capitol or somewhere else,” he said. “Here, they’ve spent so much effort dealing with protestors and security. A nice quiet service at the capital would have eliminated half of the work. Carole and the governor visited the church many times, and both told me that they had a sense of God’s presence here; they both really wanted to do this here.”

Preschoolers at First United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg decorated a Christmas tree that stands in the lobby of the church with ornaments in the shape of the letter “C” for the names Charlie and Carole. The tree was their gift to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Carole Rome, who were married at the church Dec. 12. Photo by Erik Alsgaard. Photo #08-1071.

The 20-minute service was held in the sanctuary, which was decked out in its Christmas finest, according to a pool reporter for the Associate Press. Only one reporter was allowed into the church during the ceremony, while dozens of television crews and reporters gathered outside.

The media representatives were joined by a group of vocal, but peaceful protestors standing in a park across the street from the church. The group, which supports gay marriage, was there to show its displeasure with the governor for his support of Florida constitutional Amendment 2, which defines marriage as between one man and one woman. Florida voters approved the amendment Nov. 4.

Nelson Dort, business administrator for the church, said church staff members were unusually busy for the wedding.

“We’ve had a lot of extra activity going on in advance,” he said just hours before the wedding. “A lot of set-ups and take-downs that we would do normally in this season, plus on top of that all the security, all the practice, all the double-checking that everything is ready and the church is the way we want to present it to the public.”

“Everybody’s been working overtime just in the last three weeks just for the normal Advent activities, and then you add this in too,” he added. “But it’s all doable.”

Dort said the church took seriously its call to radical hospitality, not only to the wedding party, but to the media and others. First and foremost, however, it was like many other weddings: a family affair.

“We’re dealing with a family who has been longtime members of the church,” he said. “We treat everyone as one of God’s children. We try and treat everyone in a kind, courteous and respectful manner here, no matter who comes to the door, be it the governor or someone else. It matters not.”

Through it all, the church wanted to be as loving and supportive as it could be, Miller said, to all groups in the church. He realized, too, that this was a special opportunity for the church.

“Who do we want to bring glory to at the end of this?” he said he asked himself. “I don’t want it. I don’t want to glorify the governor, but there is a chance to glorify Christ and his kingdom. The ultimate goal is that. This isn’t about me or about Geraldo Rivera being in the church (as a guest of the wedding). It’s about Christ.

Several cameramen from area media prepare for the wedding of Florida Gov. Charlie Crist and Carole Rome. No fewer than seven television stations covered the event. Photo by Erik Alsgaard. Photo #08-1072.

“That’s why we kept the Christmas decorations up,” Miller said, noting that reporters had sought him out for information on everything from the bride’s dress to how the sanctuary would be decorated. “Yes, it’s the governor’s wedding, but Christmas comes first.”

Crist is the first sitting Florida governor to be married in 42 years, according to published reports. Crist, 52, and Rome, 39, met in September 2007 and quickly became a couple. Rome joined the governor last fall as he campaigned for fellow Republican Sen. John McCain. At one point after McCain secured his party’s nomination for president, Crist’s named was mentioned as a possible vice presidential pick.

News media contact: Tita Parham, 800-282-8011, tparham@flumc.org, Orlando

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Alsgaard is director of communications for the Florida Conference.

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