by Amy Shirer
What takes 30 seconds and costs $10 plus shipping and handling? A license to marry couples, it turns out, as members of the Kenyon community can attest.
This past summer, Director of Counseling Services Patrick Gilligan became ordained online. “It takes maybe 30 seconds to be ordained,” he said. “It takes longer to pay for the certificate with your credit card than it does to get ordained.”
To gain his license, Gilligan applied to be a minister through the state of Ohio. After mailing his minister’s credential form online and $10 to the state, Gilligan then received his minister’s license. “For under $50, you end up with the capacity to perform ceremonies that are recognized by the state,” he said.
Gilligan became ordained after two Kenyon alumni asked him to marry them. They were married in July at the Brown Family Environmental Center. “Everybody was nice, and everybody was having a great time,” he said. “It was sweet. [The couple] came a few days early, and we sat down for a few hours one day and talked a lot about them and their relationship, and what was important to them about it, and how to infuse that into the ceremony. I felt like some sort of [religious] minister.”
“It felt shady — a little sketchy that I got ordained,” Gilligan said. “When it takes 30 seconds, it feels funny. Since then, I’ve realized it’s not about the process you go through, but the respect you put into the thing you’re doing. When people get married, it’s a lot of fun. It should be an amazingly fun thing, but you’re also honoring this decision they’re making for partnership. You want to do it with real integrity.”
Matthew Eley ’15, a Collegian opinions editor, is also able to tie the knot for others. He became ordained in 2013, when a high school friend asked him to perform the ceremony.
“It’s a pretty nerve-racking experience,” he said. “I’ve been the best man at a few weddings, and attended a few others, but being the minister is a lot of weight on your shoulders for the whole entire event. You really can’t let your guard down.”
Eley received his minister’s credential from American Marriage Ministries (AMM), a non-denominational, interfaith church that provides free online ordination to all people who apply. There are 212,314 AMM ministers in the United States, including more than 1,000 in Ohio alone. An individual’s ordination never expires.
Although some people might want their pastor to marry them, others would prefer a family member or friend. “I think it’s something that we’ll see more and more,” Gilligan said. “Our friends and family will marry us because they know us and they love us. They will be so invested in the meaning and beauty of that moment.”
Kyla Spencer ’18, who isn’t engaged but is thinking about her marriage in the future, would prefer to be married by a friend instead of a pastor. “I’d rather have a friend marry me and my future spouse because I think it would be more personal, and if I’m marrying someone who means so much to me, I want my closest friends to be as involved as possible,” she said.
Eley likes the sentimentality of marrying a couple he knows. “It’s a very intimate connection with that couple,” he said. “If you’re very good friends with those individuals, you get to share not only a unique moment, but a very unique perspective of actually getting to watch them be married.”