Episcopal bishop brings message of love from royal wedding to Boston
The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry has a message about living a life guided by love and generosity, a life of giving more than you take and thinking of others before yourself.
He’s aware that some may tune him out.
“Christians go to church, they expect to hear something about love,” Curry said in an interview Saturday morning. “You can almost go on autopilot and turn it off — until you stop and think about, what are we really talking about?”
What Curry is talking about — what animates and propels the cleric who rose to international fame last year with his passionate sermon at the wedding of American actress Meghan Markle to Britain’s Prince Harry — is the idea of a love rooted in selflessness and genuine concern for others, not just lip service.
It’s the love, he said, that shows up in the Gospels when Jesus is deciding to sacrifice His life in the crucifixion.
“It’s about showing the way of love: unselfish, sacrificial, seeking the good, and the welfare, and the well-being of others, sometimes before one’s own unenlightened self-interest — that’s what love looks like,” he said.
Curry is bringing his “Way of Love” message to Greater Boston this weekend, with visits to cities such as New Bedford and Lawrence — where he heard from families affected by last fall’s natural gas explosions, a schedule stacked with events for young people.
At a rally on Boston Common early Saturday evening, Curry urged more than 100 people — young and old — to love.
“Love is the way,” he said in an energetic talk that lasted about half an hour. “That’s what Jesus came to tell us. That’s what he came to show us. And that’s what I believe this world, and this time in this country, and in this global community — I believe that is the message I know I need. And I got a feeling you do too.”
The crowd cheered, prayed, sang, and, at times, laughed throughout the rally, as the sun poked in and out of clouds.
Jean-Baptiste Ntagengwa, 53, said he’s heard Curry preach before, including on Friday in Lawrence.
“I like the way he’s challenged all of us to go out and talk about that love to others,” he said after the rally, “and love our neighbors, as he said, and love ourselves.”
Deborah Walker went to the Common Saturday from Beverly to hear Curry for the first time in person.
“How could you miss Bishop Curry?” she said. “What an amazing opportunity to come and hear him so close to home.”
Walker said she loves watching videos of Curry on YouTube. After Saturday’s rally, she said she was uplifted.
“His message is just one that we really need,” she said. “It is the message of God and he just articulates it so clearly.”
Curry is the Episcopal Church’s first African-American presiding bishop and its CEO — he jokes that the initials stand for “chief evangelism officer” — and the 66-year-old’s passion for spreading the message is evident in his seemingly unflagging energy.
He downplays the sudden fame that followed his royal wedding sermon last May, saying everyone on Earth has a certain number of opportunities to touch another person’s life, and his sudden worldwide platform was an opportunity granted by God.
“The truth is, when you factor God into the equation of your life, your impact may be more than you ever dreamed,” he said in the Saturday interview. “I wonder if that’s what’s behind stories of Jesus multiplying the loaves and the fishes, feeding thousands of people with just five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish.”
The Episcopal Church works to be global, universal, and inclusive, Curry said, and he believes in welcoming “all stripes and types.”
Curry has been an outspoken supporter of same-sex marriages in the church and of welcoming lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Christians — positions held by the Episcopal Church in the US that helped create a rift between it and the international Anglican Communion.
He has also used faith to call on elected officials and to find common ground within their most basic ideals and work from there to build bridges, he said. Curry recalled speaking earlier this year to members of the US Congress and stressing that when Jesus walked on water, he was crossing “to the other side” of the Sea of Galilee — much as one might cross, say, a partisan divide.
“I said, ‘I’m just going to leave that one with y’all and let you work on that yourselves,’ ” Curry quipped.
Curry said his message of love and fraternity is especially timely in this historical moment of deep political, cultural, and religious divisions, “There’s no question about that.”
“And it was needed when Dr. King said, ‘We will either learn to live together as brothers’ and sisters [or we will all perish together as fools] — that was 1968,” he continued. “It was needed when Jesus was saying it during Holy Week, and that’s when Pontius Pilate was in power.
“So that was even before the Republicans and Democrats existed.”