It was a perfect day for a wedding. The sun shone in a clear blue sky as the bride's white dress danced in a gentle breeze.
There was just one little hitch.
The bride and groom didn't end up marrying each other.
Instead, Sandra Ashe and the Rev. Curtis Jones pledged to "love, honor and respect" the institution the other represents.
Ashe is principal of John Eager Howard Elementary School, and Jones is the pastor of Madison Avenue Presbyterian Church. Both facilities are in West Baltimore.
The creative pairing came with all the trimmings of traditional American and African weddings: a nuptial jump over a broom, a white cake and a vigorous rendition of the "electric slide."
Like most brides and grooms, members of the church and school communities promised to work at their relationship, to cooperate with each other and, most important, to raise happy, healthy children.
"Many of the young people said, 'How can our church marry our school?' " said the Rev. Karen Brown, who presided over yesterday's noontime ceremony at the school's recreation center.
The union is a natural extension of the village approach to raising a child, she said.
"We are here today to energize our parents, to educate our children, to engage our community, to edify the church and to empower our teachers," said Brown, associate pastor of the Madison Avenue church.
The ceremonial merger came two years after the church, with about 350 members, began working with the school.
The church is an affiliate of a nonprofit community group called Madison Avenue Development Corp. Together with Baltimore and the state, the corporation has provided funds for a day care and community outreach center that will be housed in a former apartment building on Eutaw Place, close to the church.
The center, which is expected to be completed by the end of the year, will allow the church to strengthen its commitment to helping neighborhood children, Brown said.
The building will house after-school tutorial programs, music instruction, a youth center and classrooms for adult education.
About 50 church members, parents, teachers and children passed the future community center yesterday on their spirited, three-block march from the church to the school. A brightly colored banner held by those leading the way said, "Choose Hope Not Dope."
Dozens of people waiting at the school burst into applause as Ashe and Jones arrived and danced down the aisle to the beat of drummers.
"I think it's a great idea," said Raven Adams, 10, a fifth-grader at the school. "We can work together to help the community."
Del. Tony E. Fulton, a Baltimore Democrat, was among those feasting on chicken, pasta salad and rolls at the reception after the ceremony.
"I've never seen anything as unique as this before," he said. "You could see the bonding going on during the ceremony."
Ashe, like many church members, wore an embroidered white robe sewn in West Africa.
"This ceremony represents a union," she said. "Without getting the community involved, we won't get anywhere fast."
Then, in a gesture any bride could appreciate, she kicked off her high heels after the ceremony to give her aching feet a break.
Pub Date: 5/31/98