Baltimore church revels at royal wedding ties: its former preacher speaking at Meghan and Harry's nuptials

The Rev. Melvin Truiett, priest at St. James Episcopal Church in Baltimore, will watch the royal wedding on TV this Saturday. He doesn’t know the bride, or the groom. But he does know the preacher, the Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry.

He has his old job.

Curry, the presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, led St. James in Baltimore from 1988 to 2000. Now he’s been asked to offer the homily at the wedding Saturday of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry.

“The homily for the royal couple? That is exciting,” Truiett said. “Everybody’s just excited.”

The excitement of a royal wedding has echoes across Baltimore — from present-day restaurateurs planning celebratory breakfasts Saturday, to the 1930s metropolis, when a king abdicated his crown to wed Baltimorean Wallis Simpson.

The American actress made history after her engagement in November to Prince Harry, grandson of Queen Elizabeth II. She is likely the first biracial woman to marry into the British royal family.

But Markle takes after Simpson in that she is an American and a divorcee. Simpson wed Prince Edward, formerly King Edward VIII, in 1937, months after he abdicated the throne to be with “the woman I love.” The union caused worldwide scandal. The Baltimore Sun’s H.L. Mencken called the abdication "the greatest story since the Resurrection."

No such grand gestures were required for Prince Harry to marry Markle.

Around the city, restaurants are gearing up for the momentous occasion. The Corner Pantry on Falls Road will open at 7 a.m. on the day of the royal wedding and offer Meghan- and Harry-themed specials, complete with clotted cream. The nuptials will be live-streamed on television in the cafe.

To Neill Howard, a British chef who runs the Corner Pantry with his Baltimore-native wife, the union is a sign that the royal family is moving into the 21st century.

“If you look in the past, they haven’t really been accepting” of outsiders, he said.

And, Howard said, “Harry’s always been the rogue,” so “him settling down, I think, is a good thing.”

It’s also historic for St. James Episcopal, a church with deep roots of its own. St. James was the first African-American Episcopal church built south of the Mason-Dixon line, welcoming both freed and enslaved people when it was formed in 1824. And it’s another proud moment for Truiett and for the congregation, who have watched Curry leave their building on Lafayette Square and go on to become the first African-American to serve as presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, which is an offshoot of the Church of England in the United States.

“I’m not quite sure what makes a saint a saint,” said Cynthia Easley, a lifelong member of the church who volunteers in the office. “But if it’s possible that he would be one, he’s deserving of that title.”

As a preacher, Curry always demonstrated a gift for speaking to a broad range of people, Truiett said, regardless of race or class or gender.

“He is a person that you can approach and he’ll make you feel at ease, regardless of whether you’re the president, the queen or a prince — anyone, he would treat you the same,” said Truiett.

At St. James, Curry’s lively sermons attracted blacks and whites alike. “He starts off calm,” said Truiett. Then the excitement and emotion build as he speaks — he frequently walks up and down the aisles. Truiett said his preaching style would be more common in Pentecostal or Baptist traditions than in Episcopal ones.

Truiett expects Curry will bring that same style when he gives the address, or 10-minute homily, at Windsor Palace for the royal wedding. “He doesn’t change his style,” he said.

Easley recalled Curry’s humility and lack of pretension while he was at St. James. One time, when her mother was in the hospital, Curry came to meet with the family. He sat on the floor — revealing a hole in his shoe. “He was never pretending to be anything he wasn’t,” Easley said.

After his time in Baltimore, Curry was elected a bishop in North Carolina. He became the Episcopal church’s presiding bishop in 2015, and visited Baltimore in 2017 to preach.

Curry could not be reached for comment prior to the nuptials, but in a statement put out by Kensington Palace, Curry said: "The love that has brought and will bind Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle together has its source and origin in God, and is the key to life and happiness. And so we celebrate and pray for them today."

The Associated Press and Baltimore Sun reporters Jonathan Pitts and John-John Williams IV contributed to this article.

ctkacik@baltsun.com

twitter.com/xtinatkacik

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
68°