How Royal Wedding preacher Michael Curry’s late grandmother inspired that epic sermon

by Joel Adams| Bishop Michael Curry : ‘I could hear her voice in the back. She was saying, I gotta see this’ (Credit: Reuters)

The preacher who became the unexpected star of last weekend’s Royal Wedding has said his unorthodox sermon was inspired by the spirit of his late grandmother, whose voice he could hear from the back of the church.

Bishop Michael Curry added initially he believed his wedding invitation was an April Fool – and that the amused reaction to his impassioned preaching by some Royals was “fine by him”.

The Presiding Bishop of the American Episcopal church told the Daily Mail: “Yeah! My grandma was there, she was there in the room singing hymns.

“I could hear her voice in the back. She was saying: ‘I gotta see this, I gotta see this.’”

It is not the first time Nellie Strayhorn, Bishop Curry’s maternal grandmother, has provided inspiration from beyond the grave.

He has written of how her appearance in a dream, shortly after her death, helped set him on the path to God after a turbulent time at college when he describes being “close to the edge”.

She played a major part in raising the young Michael in upstate New York in the 1960s. After his mother died at 44 of a brain haemorrhage, his grandmother stepped in to play a maternal role in the life of the 14 year-old.

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex pose with their families and wedding party members in the Green Drawing Room at Windsor Castle on May 19. (Alexi Lubomirski/Duke and Duchess of Sussex/Getty Images)

The Duke and Duchess of Sussex pose with their families and wedding party members in the Green Drawing Room at Windsor Castle on May 19. (Alexi Lubomirski/Duke and Duchess of Sussex/Getty Images)

He said: “She was a big influence, a profound influence on me. She was in her mid-70s by then, but she helped my father and she helped me.”

His fiery 14-minute sermon in Windsor – he had been allocated six minutes – prompted some barely-concealed giggles from members of the Royal Family but the 65 year-old insisted he would have reacted the same way.

He said: “Oh there were some funny moments. OK, I would have laughed, too. A sermon should have some tears, some joy.

“Emotions should be expanded. Laugh at me, laugh with me, it is all fine by me. Any way I can steer the message about the love of God, I am glad to do that.”

His Baptist style – his grandfather was a Baptist preacher and his reverend father converted to Episcopalianism only in middle age – may have stolen the show last Saturday, but initially he could not believe he had even been invited.

On receiving the call from Lambeth Palace he said: “What? Get out of here. April Fool or what? You have to be kidding me.”

This week Bishop Curry joined other faith leaders in a candlelit vigil at the White House to protest President Trump’s agenda as part of a movement known as Reclaiming Jesus.

“Love your neighbour,” he told a crowd of 2,000 at a Washington church before processing to Lafayette Park opposite the White House.

“Love the neighbour you agree with and love the neighbour you don’t like. Love your Democrat neighbour, your Republican neighbour.”

His oration bore the hallmarks of his sermon in Windsor, filled with references to the healing power of love, which Archbishop Justin Welby described as “raw God”.

The American Preacher at the Royal Wedding

by Rick Hamlin | In an inspired choice, Bishop Michael Curry to speak at wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (image: YouTube)

Who to get to preach at your wedding? Probably whoever is performing the ceremony. But what if you’re Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, and you’ve got the world at your feet? (Not to mention millions clamoring for any gossip about a royal wedding.)

In an inspired choice, they’ve asked an American (like Meghan), the head of the Episcopal Church, Bishop Michael Curry.

No, he won’t be doing the ceremony. He’ll be doing something even more important. Reminding the wedded couple what true love is about.

Bishop Curry hinted at his sermon topic in a statement. “The love that has brought and will bind Prince Harry and Ms. Meghan Markle together has its source and origin in God,” he said, “and is the key to life and happiness.”

Usually the minister to speak at such a ceremony would be an English prelate. Not with this couple. Although the Episcopal Church is part of the Anglican Communion, headed by the Archbishop of Canterbury, it is decidedly American, owing its origins to those post-Revolutionary days.

Michael Curry is the first African-American leader of the denomination, elected in 2015. He is a thrilling preacher and charismatic leader. “Someone with a great gift for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ” is how Justin Welby, the current Archbishop of Canterbury put it.

What I love about Michael Curry is that he’s a truth teller. He doesn’t just stand on ceremony, even when he’s decked out in the heavy brocaded robes of his position. Take this, a quote from his book Crazy Christians: A Call to Follow Jesus:

“Being a Christian is not essentially about joining a church or being a nice person, but about following in the footsteps of Jesus, taking his teaching seriously, letting his Spirit take the lead in our lives, and in so doing helping to change the world from our nightmare into God’s dream.”

I’ll be tuning in to listen to inspired preaching like that. Even if it is 5 a.m. on a Saturday.

The royal wedding: