Ceremonial Speeches


Jagoda Poropat Darrer

Ceremonial Speech that Heated Up Seven Century Cold Walls of St. George’s Chapel at Windsor 

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The sermon speech Rev bishop Michael Curry gave last month in the occasion of the Meghan Markle and Prince Harry Royal Wedding in St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, surprised all, weather eliciting approval and admiration on one side, weather evoking  perplexed side looks on the other. No matter what the reactions were, reverend fulfilled the rhetorical rule number one: communicate strategically.

What we saw and heard, from reverend bishop Michael Curry, during the wedding ceremony of the Queen Elizabeth’s grandson, Prince Harry and the American actress Meghan Markle, was the most American way possible sermon, as media call it today. Wedding ceremony was being presided over by the Dean of Windsor and the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Curry delivered the sermon. It lasted for 14 minutes, eight minutes longer then estimated, breaking that way the protocol. Time wasn’t the only thing he astonished his audience with.

“As he made reference to slavery, first loves and young loves, sacrifice, redemption, invention, innovation, the Industrial Revolution and social media, he captivated the worldwide audience. He seamlessly blended lessons of the Bible with the challenges the world faces today, integrating the two to deliver a message unlike anything ever heard before at a royal wedding”, writes Katherine Rosenberg-Douglas for Chicago Tribune.

Chicago born, Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop and Primate of The Episcopal Church, began his sermon during the wedding by quoting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words: “We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. And when we do that, we will make of this old world a new world. Love is the only way”. But not just has the reverend’s words referenced to Martin Luther King, there are several more rhetorical features to be mentioned when remembering the fiery speech.

First of all, the rhythm: Rhythm, the most global of all speech forms, proved to be, not only the most interesting aspect of the speech, but also the decisive one in achieving the most important goal in public speaking: influencing the audience, Marko Liker (Rhythm in Martin Luther, Jr.’s speech “I have a dream”, 2007). Repetition of words and concepts contribute to making the specific rhythm of his speech. He mentions the word Love 65 times, making it that way his leitmotiv besides the metaphor of fire. His verbal is well accompanied by the nonverbal cues: gestures, body movements, mimics and his voice Curry recites repeating phrases, using short sentences, changing the tone, volume, pitch and pace of his voice trying to transmit power and ardor for love that change the world. While speaking he raises his hands, his arms are up over the shoulders, he is constantly waving, going up and down. Candles on the podium were all the time about to fall, shaking and trembling under reverend Curry constant moving.  

Another peculiarity of his public speaking rises up. It is the close interaction with the audience, not only with his body language but also when he directly addresses his audience by asking them to nod their head if they agree. Or, for example, when he feels he had exceeded the given time (he actually did for 8 minutes), he said “…With this I will sit down, we got to get you all married.” The feeling is that he is conversing with his audience, making himself part of them.

Although, the address was far away from being seen as the traditional aristocratic Anglican ex-cathedra sermon, archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who married Harry and Meghan, said of the sermon: “I think what we saw in that is that preaching is not a past art, the use of language to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ just blew the place open, it was fantastic.”

The impact of his ardent words is still echoing. Approximately 1.9 billion people heard his sermon all over the world, and it peaked at 40,000 tweets a minute when he delivered his fervent address, according to Twitter.

All the greatest speeches in history have their own memorable phrases. Perhaps, the reverend Curry’s speech will remain remembered for its zeal and passion as well as for its universal hope that love will help the world to heal, strategically communicated at the royal wedding being that way, for fourteen minutes in the eye of the whole World:

 “If you don’t believe me, just stop and think and imagine, think and imagine, well, think and imagine a world where love is the way. Imagine our homes and families when love is the way. Imagine neighborhoods and communities where love is the way. Imagine governments and nations where love is the way. Imagine business and commerce when love is the way. Imagine this tired old world when love is the way”.