The first thing one notices about Bishop Michael B. Curry is his smile and laugh. That smile and easy laugh welcomed everyone to a conversation at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture about his new book, “The Power of Love: Sermons, Reflections, and Wisdom to Uplift and Inspire.”
The setting was a conversation with Michel Martin, host of NPR’s “All Things Considered.” The book contains the full sermon Curry preached at the wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle (now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex). Two billion people watched that wedding. The sermon gave Curry global presence beyond the Episcopal Church in America. The book also has four of his favorite sermons on the themes of love and social justice.
Curry has a lot of titles with the Episcopal Church. He is the 27th presiding bishop and primate of the Episcopal Church. Additionally, Curry holds the titles chief pastor, president and chief executive officer and chair of the Executive Council of The Episcopal Church.
Understanding the strength of love is something Curry began living from a young age. Curry and his sister were raised primarily by his father, also an Episcopal minister. His maternal grandmother and the church community pastored by his father, also played a big part in Curry’s upbringing. Early in his life, Curry’s mother died after many years of hospital and nursing home care for a brain injury sustained in a car accident. His father would drive each week from Buffalo where the family lived, to New York City where Curry’s mother was hospitalized.
“In a difficult time in life, I saw the power of love from both family and community who cared for two children,” Curry said. “And I saw the power of love with my father taking care of his wife who was almost in a semi-vegetated state by that time.”
Curry told Martin that becoming a minister was a natural path for his life. After all, his father was a minister and his grandmother was what Curry called a “dyed-in-the-wool, rock-red Baptist.” Curry talked about the influence of his father’s ministry of activism.
“He pastored about civil rights and social activism. I saw that as growing out of the real core of Jesus’ teachings,” said Curry. “I said OK. You have church and church is supposed to do something good in people’s lives. I grew up with the assumption that whatever I did with my life, it would have to include some social benefit.”
Martin asked a question that many may think about when interacting with faith leaders. “Have you ever had a crisis of faith?”
“I’ve had crises of life,” Curry said. “There have been some hard times, even as a leader. That is the nature of daring to live a life that matters and makes a difference.”
For Curry, the opportunity to preach at a royal wedding was not a crisis of life. In fact, Curry thought it was a prank when he got the call from one of his staff that Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, had a question for him. Normally for a British royal wedding, a bishop from the Church of England would preach. But as Curry acknowledged, this was a different wedding, so he made some assumptions on why he was chosen.
“I think [Prince Harry and Meghan Markle] wanted to make a statement about human family and human community to reflect the two worlds that were being brought together in their relationship,” said Curry when speaking about what he wanted to convey through his sermon. “I wanted to get to the core of the Christian message, not what it is purported to be.”