Bishop Michael Curry Says He Heard Voices of Enslaved People at Meghan and Harry's Wedding
In a wide-ranging interview with PEOPLE, Bishop Curry discusses his new book, Love is the Way, and describes what it was like to be a descendant of slaves and present a sermon in front of Queen Elizabeth.
"After I preached the sermon, I just remember it was like I could feel slaves around the place," Bishop Curry, 67, says. "I don't mean to be spooky, but it was like their voice was somehow heard that day. I included one of their songs, 'There is a Balm in Gilead.'
"It was like their voice, one of their songs, one of their descendants was there that day. The Queen was most gracious," he continues. "The fact that all happened, for me, it's a sign of hope. It's a sign of hope that one who descends from people who were captured in the slave trade, probably the British slave trade, is brought from the shores of West Africa, to the shores of America. That one of their descendants was in the presence of the Queen of England, and he quoted one of their songs. That's hope that we don't have to be the way we've always been."
It was with this emotion that Bishop Curry presented his sermon, "The Power of Love," to the royal family — and billions of viewers — two years ago. Many of the same themes appear in the bishop's book, which is a candid look at his personal hardships (he was a young boy when his mother went into a year-long coma before her death) and a guide to help readers overcome challenges from poverty to racism. The bishop also describes his own work as a civil rights activist and, later, his fight to gain recognition of LGBTQ people in the Episcopal Church.
"You can live a life based on and grounded in love. A love that's unselfish, that really does seek the good and the welfare and the wellbeing of others, as well as yourself," he says about the book's main lesson.
Curry says he saw this same type of powerful love between Harry and Meghan.
"What stood out for me was, these are two people who really do love each other," he says. "It brought together two nations, Britain and the U.S. But it brought together people from around the world. I realized that the love of two people for each other brought together, at least for a moment, a world of differences. And I think that is a parable of what real love can do."
While Bishop Curry isn't currently in touch with the couple, he says that he continues to pray for them. He also says he was astonished by the amount of attention he got in the days and months after the royal wedding—and was inspired by the conversations the wedding started.
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"In two years, I've had more of those kinds of conversations about faith and life and love, than I had in 40 years," he explains.
Bishop Curry hopes that by teaching people about the power of love, it will help create a more just America.
"My dream for America is that we will live out the true potential of the ideals of this country. We haven't lived up to those ideals," Bishop Curry says. "My dream for America is that we will live out the ideals of human equality, of brother and sisterhood, of e pluribus unum, from many different and diverse people, one people."
Bishop Curry's work as a religious leader has been guided by this principle—and he sees similar values in Meghan, who has been using her platform to encourage Americans to vote in the presidential election in November.
"I say, 'Go for it,' " Bishop Curry says of Meghan's activism. "We need people to lift up other people. There's enough negativity and enough putting people down, there's enough hurt. We don't need any more hurt."
He continues: "We need help. We need healing. She does that. She's lifting up women and we need somebody to lift up women, lift up people. Lift up people of all colors. The truth is, a rising tide raises all ships."