Nei Neiwa Yi Yu Gali. I’m sorry, I don’t know many words of local language: especially the words used for celebrations just like this, in this place, for thousands of years. So those words will have to do. But imagine that. Imagine all who have gathered, like us, for thousands of years in this Darkinjung and Guringai country: meeting, binding in love, feasting, singing, and dancing, the joy of human relationship. Nei Neiwa Yi Yu Gali: we walk, or dance, together, with Mother Earth. Don’t we?! Isn’t that what we do today: aren’t we dancing a celebration, together, with this part of Mother Earth, and with these two remarkable people, Cathleen and James, who owe so much to this place.
Thank you everyone for gathering here and thank you, Cathleen and James, for choosing to bring us here - and not to Sydney. For this is a truly amazing area with fabulous people and places. Indeed, it is an area full of Indigenous birthing places: like the birth canal which runs out from Narara, James’ homeland; close to Gosford School, where James and Cathleen first met; out past the Gosford Anglican site where Cathleen first lived and where she and James have just been married; further out past our family home in wonderful Woy Woy, towards Sydney, where Cathleen and James now live; and to the sea, a living expression of the depth and open future to which they are now called, into a new birth together, in the mystery of love.
Today is James and Cathleen’s day. So let me just share three brief things. Unusually, for me, they are from three men and no women. For, throughout Cathleen’s life in Australia, I have been part of a female household: fabulous females indeed, but all females, even both our dogs. So it is a huge joy fully to welcome James into my closest family, as a fellow male. Maybe God - bless her - has finally started to readdress the balance?! At any rate, Beeny, today, just for once, I’m going to ditch my usual feminist desire for inclusivity, and offer you, with James, three pieces of masculine wisdom...
The first word - guess what? - is from the North East of England and its secular religion, football. It is from the late, great, Sir Bobby Robson, the last great England football manager, and, just possibly, as British pundits put it last year, the man who, with Bill Shankly, loved football more than anyone else. Well, the secret is, that Bobby did grow up, as a child, like Cathleen, in County Durham! For England’s North East has a special gift which Cathleen shares. It’s called passion. Passionate people, passionate places: that is where Cathleen first grew up, and that, I am glad to say, she richly embodies, at a cost as well as a wonderful gift. So Beeny, these words of Bobby Robson come with an apology too. I apologise for sharing the curse of following England and the still greater curse of Newcastle United. Yet, what a glorious curse! For among his huge number of weirder sayings, Sir Bobby also cut right to the heart of life: what the heart of life, expressed in the world’s most beautiful game, is all about: ‘What is a club? the great Geordie hero said. ‘It is not the buildings or the directors or the people who are paid to represent it. It's not the television contracts, get-out clauses, marketing clauses, executive boxes. It's the noise, the passion, the feeling of belonging, the pride in your place. It's a small child clambering up the stadium steps for the very first time, gripping their father's hand, gawping at that hallowed stretch of land beneath them and, without being able to do a thing about it, falling in love.’
Falling in love: that is what football, North East style, is always about. For that is what the most important things of life, like marriage, are all about: falling in love. So thank you Beeny for holding my hand and climbing up many different steps with me, to see something of our promised lands. Keep loving, keep being passionate, keep the dreams alive. It will break your heart, from time to time: even more than Newcastle United. Yet, ultimately, it is the only thing that really matters.
My second word comes from that fabulous actor Bill Nighy. And no, it is not his wish for all women, that ‘if I ruled the world, every woman would have a Chanel suit in her wardrobe.’ That also seems pretty good to me! No, these words come from the film ‘About Time’: a very unusual film, as the central male character is, just for once, a gawky, red headed, male, as I once was. At last, in this film, it is the red headed boy who gets the gorgeous girl – hallelujah! Maybe it is partly the story of my life Penny, who knows? Anyway, in ‘About Time’, at the wedding, the father, Bill Nighy, says this: 'I'd only give one piece of advice to anyone marrying. We're all quite similar in the end. We all get old and tell the same tales too many times. But try and marry someone kind. And this is a kind man with a good heart.' And that’s the truth Beeny, isn’t it? This man – James – is a kind man with a good heart, and you have spotted it. Not surprisingly perhaps, for in your life you have spotted so much with a kind and good heart, not least wonderful friends who continue to enrich us all. Maybe it is simply because, like your astonishing sister, courtesy of your amazing mother, you have a good heart: so much so that you are even willing to let James do crazy things, like swimming with the sharks and adopting a familiar called Beckett: a bit crazy, we know, but the gift of a kind and good heart. After all, it is not for nothing that local language calls this area Bouddi: the place of the heart.
Finally, my third word for you, Cathleen, and for James, on this your wedding day, is from a particular book and a particular actor. Any guesses? It is not really very hard, is it? Harry Potter is the book and the actor is the world’s most wondrous velvet voice, Alan Rickman. That, Beeny, is also is a kind of tribute to you, as you are one of J.K.Rowling’s spiritual children. For like J.K herself, you have had to battle hard to come to this day, and not everything was, or still is, entirely easy. Yet you are not a Muggle, are you, any more than James is? You’re not an ordinary person, are you, any more than James is? Rather, you are a kind of wizard, just as James is. Indeed, to mix the fictional metaphor, metaphorically you guys belong to a kind of Farscape. Together you’ve been, to coin a phrase, shot through a wormhole, into a great adventure. So enjoy it, with all its ups and downs, and all the other strange travelers you meet. For we’re all a bunch of would-be wizards when it comes to marriage. We’re all alchemists of the soul, fumbling spells to ward off the Death Eaters and to find the Philosopher’s Stone. So what does the great wizard Snape have to say to you, on this, your wedding, day? What does he tell us about the secret of relationships? Just this: asked by the old father and mentor Dumbledore about his love for Lily Potter after so many years, Snape says, yes, I do still love her. ‘What’, says Dumbledore, hardly believing, yet thrilled to the core, ‘after all this time?’ Yes, says Snape, albeit in a much better Alan Rickman accent than mine, ‘always.’
Always, Cathleen and James: always love, with Bouddi – with a passionate, kind and good heart, even when you feel the Dementors’ presence. Always love, and nei neiwa, yi yu gali: dance together, today and to the end of time. And may God bless you richly.
Jo Inkpin is an Anglican priest serving as Minister of Pitt St Uniting Church in Sydney, a trans woman, theologian & justice activist. These are some of my reflections on life, spirit, and the search for peace, justice & sustainable creation.