Pastor Tobias Anderson of Redeemer Lutheran Church in New Paltz is our top readers’ pick as Wedding Officiant, and it’s obvious how that might be when one first arrives at the church’s website and finds “Let us then pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding.” (Romans 14:19) front and center. After all, a Mutual Upbuilding Society makes a lovely definition of marriage, church, and what we’d all like to be building every which way.
Anderson’s pastoral vision extends beyond any one sacrament or denomination. He’s out to spread that peace and mutual upbuilding everywhere. “The first thing anyone needs to know about me is that I believe in God’s message of radical inclusion,” he says. “My mission is always to share Christ’s welcome, which brings all into the circle of care, equality, and justice. And, good golly, in this world we have just got to link arms whenever we can, across all the divisions, to bring down hunger and racism and labels.”
That philosophy makes a fine setting for a gem of a marriage sacrament, and Anderson says people appreciate his focus on love writ large. “I strive to help the couple stay grounded in what’s most important: devotion and commitment,” he says. “And when I’m part of a wedding, the public celebration of their commitment to lifelong love, the joining together is not just for themselves. It’s for the good of the whole world, so that the goodness of each of our lives can be amplified and uplifted.”
Anderson loves officiating just as much as marrying couples love his way with it. “It’s beautiful to watch people join their lives,” he says. “I love wedding days. I like to include words of welcome that set everyone there at ease: ‘Whatever tradition you come from, we’re connected today to surround the couple with love.’ I also have a good sense of humor, which can defuse stress. Stress should never overshadow the joy.”