The central theme of Presiding Bishop Michael Curry’s message to the audience gathered in Callaway Chapel on January 29, 2019, was deceptively simple: God is love. He threaded that message through historical references, the political tensions of our current day, references to songs and musicians young and old, and even a few reflections on his experience “at a wedding a couple of months ago at a little place across the pond.”
The last reference, which earned more than a few knowing laughs from the crowd, was to his sermon given
at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle in May 2018. His message, again focused on the simple power of love, ignited so much increased interest in him that he was interviewed by dozens of national media outlets (including, he notes in his talk, the television tabloid TMZ).
The Most Rev. Curry spent the day at Episcopal as the 2019 honoree of the Portrait In Faith program. Established in 1994 by Reginald E. Rutledge, Jr. ’51, in honor of his wife the Reverend Fleming Rutledge and his family members who attended EHS, the program seeks to educate and inspire students by exposing them to models of Christian faith. Previous speakers have included Dr. Katharine Hayhoe, Ruby Sales, the Rev. Dr. Jim Wallis, and John Kasich, among others.
After spending a few minutes reminding the audience — which included guests from Virginia Theological Seminary, St. Albans, and St. Stephen’s and St. Agnes — of the historical significance of Marbury vs. Madison, which secured the U.S. Constitution as the supreme law of the land, Curry said Jesus’ two great commandments (“Love God, and love your neighbor”) were “the religious Marbury vs. Madison.”
“The supreme law of God is to love. You want to know the heart of God? You want to know what God is about? You want to know the will of God? If it’s not about love, it’s not about God,” he said.
Following his message, Curry spent extra time on a Q&A session with the students before engaging in a smaller lunchtime conversation with the student vestry and select members of the School administration.
"What always strikes be about Bishop Curry's message of love is how he is challenging us to be more," said Rev. Betsy Gonzalez, Episcopal's head chaplain. "As he says, this is not a sentimental, Hallmark-store love that he is talking about. This is love that is powerful, selfless, and self-sacrificial and to be impactful, it must extend beyond those we love to those we dislike and to those we don't even know."
Curry, his charismatic personality, and his message, resonated with many of the students in attendance. Paul Pivirotto '19, the senior warden of the student vestry, was moved by the way Curry wove in the need for and power of love to transcend political opposition and disagreements, referencing the friendship between Supreme Court justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the late Antonin Scalia as one example.
“I believe that piece of his homily was crucial for young people to hear,” Pivirotto said, “that differences between people politically can be overcome by friendship and love, and that those differences don't always need to divide us.”
Gilbert Amason '20, a junior member of the vestry, was impressed by the energy and movement Curry brought to the chapel, using the whole transept and even walking between the aisles on a few occasions.
“His eagerness to share his message resonated with me because it showed how spreading ideas and creating relationships through love is crucial to making progress,” Amason said.