Herald JournalHerald Journal, May 10, 2004

Howard Lake native is specialist at non-traditional weddings

By Liz Hellmann

As another wedding season draws closer, Rev. Jerry Montgomery marks his calendar for the dozens of weddings he will officiate over in the upcoming months as part of his unique wedding ministry.

Although he lives in a suburb of Tacoma, Wash., Montgomery performs wedding ceremonies across the nation, and in unique places, for couples who for some reason are not able or don’t want to get married in a church.

Montgomery is not the first in his family to take up the call of the ministry. His great-great-great-grandparents, William John and Margaret Ann Montgomery, were among the founders of the First Presbyterian Church in Howard Lake more than 130 years ago.

Montgomery recently visited his childhood home to preach in the church on Easter Sunday. “The connections are very old and run very deep,” he said.

He became an ordained minister of the United Church of Christ in 1984. “I vowed then that I would serve people of faith, but also vowed to serve people who were inactive in any church or who professed no faith,” he said.

Just as Montgomery takes a non-traditional approach to his ministry, the couples he marries sometimes take a non-traditional approach to their wedding ceremonies.

Montgomery has officiated at weddings on horseback, in theatres with everyone wearing 18th century French court costumes, and several Scottish weddings complete with kilt clad groomsmen.

He has also married a couple on the Fourth of July during a rock concert, in the middle of a circle of Harley Davidson motorcycles.

“The bride and I were the only ones not wearing biker leathers,” he said.

Montgomery never can predict just what his next wedding will be like, and he also never predicted he’d be in the ministry at all.

Montgomery was born on a farm west of Howard Lake. He graduated from Howard Lake High School in 1957, and went on to earn his bachelor degree in journalism and the arts at Macalester College in St. Paul.

Montgomery worked on the news staff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press for nine years.

He went on to earn two doctoral degrees from California.

“My previous career as a newspaper writer/editor is helpful because the interview and writing skills I learned as a reporter serve me well when I prepare for a wedding or funeral,” he said.

Throughout the years Montgomery has served several congregations, including 14 years of service at Anderson Island Community Church, in Puget Sound. Montgomery has been officiating at weddings for 20 years. “I have a lot of fun doing weddings,” he said.

Since he retired from his positions as senior pastor of Anderson Island Community Church, Montgomery is working as chaplain for the firefighters of The Boeing Company’s fire department.

He is called on to officiate over funerals for retired members of the fire department. More than 50 percent of his time is spent on weddings. “I’m in the business of launching marriages, not weddings,” he said.

The war has made a difference in the lives of many people, and Montgomery is no exception.

One of the more touching ceremonies he performed was in January 2003. He married two United States Army soldiers on the beach of Puget Sound at Solo Point on North Fort Lewis, right before they were both to be deployed to Iraq.

Montgomery looks forward to the chance to be able to serve more soldiers, if needed.

Montgomery expects to carry on his wedding ministry for years to come. “I’ve always been passionate about caring for people,” he said.

He enjoys serving people and carrying on his ministry, even though it differs slightly from his more traditional forefathers.

So whether rain or shine, church or no church, as long as Montgomery has a say, the wedding will go on.

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