Bishop Michael Curry stole the show at Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding — and is the 'new Pippa Middleton'
THE unexpected star of Harry and Meghan’s wedding flew home early yesterday unaware he had become the “new Pippa”.
Just as Kate Middleton’s sister became the accidental star of her wedding, Bishop Michael Curry boarded a plane for home to the US leaving a Britain still raving about his electrifying sermon.
Former Labour leader Ed Miliband, an atheist, even tweeted to say the rocking reverend could almost make him a believer.
Almost two billion TV viewers around the world witnessed what religious experts are calling the Fire Speech, which left the well-heeled congregation at Windor’s St George’s Chapel looking amused and bemused.
Though it should be the Love Speech, actually.
Because the frocked preacher said the word “love” an astonishing 65 times (plus “beloved” twice) during his unforgettable speech that lasted 13 minutes and 34 seconds.
It caused the wedding service to overrun by eight minutes.
He mentioned fire just 20 times — more than the number of times he referred to God. And many people went on to the internet to find out about the Balm of Gilead, which he mentioned four times.
The Queen, who sat stony-faced during the speech, may well be one of the few who got the reference.
Balm of Gilead is a rare perfume used as a medicine and appears in the King James Bible of 1611, which is a favourite with the royals.
The Most Reverend Michael Curry, head of the American Episcopal Church, had an iPad on the lectern to help him remember his lines but he did not appear to refer to it all, or even seem to have it switched on.
Instead, he just ad-libbed and at one point appeared to realise he had gone on too long when he leant on the lectern and said: “We’re going to sit down, we gotta get y’all married!”
Facts and figures
- 7 mins: Ideal length of a sermon, according to the Queen
- 13m 34s: Length of Rev Curry's wedding address
- 65: Number of times Rev Curry said 'Love'
- 20: Mentions of the word 'Fire' in sermon
But instead of wrapping it up and sitting down, he was nowhere near done and carried on for almost three minutes more, oblivious of the time.
By this time Princess Beatrice was giggling and heavily pregnant Zara Tindall was open-mouthed in disbelief. Even Camilla and Kate seemed close to losing it.
But despite the royal reactions Rev Curry’s close friend Michael Andres, Bishop of California, praised the sermon.
He said: “Michael is always an A+. This may be hard for people to believe but what you get with Michael Curry is his authentic self. With Michael there is no theatricality.”
Rev Curry, 65 is married and has two daughters, Rachel and Elizabeth. He and wife Sharon live in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Mum-of-four Rachel, 36, said: “We are absolutely thrilled and more proud than I can possibly express.
“What people need to understand is that the man that got up there and did that homily is the man we see every day. He does not change.
“When you get Michael Curry, you get that passion, you get that fire and you get that desire to spread God’s word and love.
“His speech may have been unorthodox but it was appropriate and absolutely necessary. I found it amusing that some of the congregation were giggling but some of them had probably never seen anything like that. Especially not at a royal occasion.
“That is what made it so beautiful and wonderful. This is the couple that are changing the face of the monarchy.”
He has been a preacher for 40 years and says he learned early on that at weddings you have to preach to the couple.
Bishop Andres said: “He was obviously aware that a billion people might well be listening and watching, but he was preaching to Harry and to Meghan. That’s an intimate thing and you could see that they were completely caught up in his words. These are beautiful people and I think Michael was just in sync with them.”
Meghan’s parents are both Protestant and her father Thomas is a member of the Episcopal Church.
Harry and Meghan did not know the bishop personally, and met him for the first time last week — but he came highly recommended by the Archbishop of Canterbury.
In his autobiography Rev Curry, who was born in Chicago in 1953, reveals his parents were descended from slaves and scratched a living planting crops.
He went to school in Buffalo, New York, and still supports the local American football team, the Buffalo Bills.
He held church posts in North Carolina, Ohio and Maryland before being consecrated as the 11th bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of North Carolina in 2000.
In 2015, Rev Curry became the first black presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, which is Anglican, like the Church of England.
The Episcopal Church – based in New York – is one of just two Anglican churches which allows gay marriage in church, and Curry drew some controversy by backing the move.
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During his four-decade career the bishop has been outspoken on social justice and immigration.
Next month he is expected to join an anti-Trump march on the White House.
But his sermon of fire and love did not go down well with everyone.
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Dickie Arbiter, the Queen’s former press secretary, said: “It was too long.
“He was being very theatrical and if you looked at the congregation they were laughing. The whole thing overran by eight minutes and we don’t overrun things in the royal household.”
Moment I'll hold forever
THE cellist who serenaded guests at St George’s Chapel said it was an “awesome moment I’ll remember for ever”.
Sheku Kanneh-Mason, who won BBC Young Musician of the Year in 2016, was personally invited to perform at the wedding by Meghan Markle.
The 19-year-old will also feature on a new recording of Harry and Meghan’s big day. He took centre stage as the couple signed the marriage register, with an audience of 600 people in the chapel and an estimated 1.9 billion around the world.
Dressed in a dapper Paul Smith suit and pink tie, Sheku mesmerised audiences and reduced Meghan’s mum Doria Ragland to tears with wedding favourites Sicilienne by von Paradis, Schubert’s Ave Maria and Après Un Rêve by Fauré.
He said: “It was such an awesome moment — just really incredible to perform for Prince Harry and Meghan at their wedding. The atmosphere was amazing and I’m proud to have played a small part in the celebrations. It’s a day I will remember for the rest of my life.”
The Nottingham musician, pictured above at home with his family, released his first album Inspiration this year.
His classical arrangement of Bob Marley’s No Woman, No Cry, helped catapult him into the Official UK Top 20 Album Chart.
Sheku, described as a “cello rock star”, will feature on The Official Recording of The Royal Wedding, out today, above. A donation per album sold will go to Harry, William and Kate’s Royal Foundation charity.
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