"Best day ever": Luminary members respond to Annual Conference challenge with surprise wedding

"Best day ever": Luminary members respond to Annual Conference challenge with surprise wedding

Travis Smith and Brandy Long smile during the wedding ceremony while a proud congregation looks on. (Photo by Billy Kurtz)

TEN MILE, Tenn. -- At Annual Conference, Karla Kurtz and Karen Drake were challenged when they heard the Rev. Drew Dyson ask:

“What’s your missional imagination like? What would it take to make today the best day ever for somebody in a world that so desperately needs to hear the gospel of Jesus Christ?”

Kurtz and Drake returned home after the June 10-13 meeting in Lake Junaluska and started to think about the people in their church and community at Luminary United Methodist Church. Their thoughts quickly settled on 19-year-old Brandy Long and 26-year-old Travis Smith, who had been trying to plan a wedding but decided on a quick ceremony because they couldn’t afford more.

“This poor working college student just needs the world to stop spinning for a day,” said Kurtz, whose husband, the Rev. Billy Kurtz, is pastor at Luminary. “She needs to be a princess for one day, and I hope we can give her that.”

See related story in the Knoxville News Sentinel

Within one week, Kurtz, Drake and others had arranged a dream wedding and weekend honeymoon for Long, a student at Roane State Community College, and Smith, who builds boat docks for a living.

Wedding cakes, bridal dress, tuxedo, flowers and decorations, piano and sound, seamstress services, and a lake cabin were donated by church members. The United Methodist Women provided and served reception food. Community members donated free photography, makeup and hair, and a wedding dinner.

Church members arrived as surprise guests for the wedding, which happened after the groom got off from work at 6 p.m. on Friday, June 29. Pastor Kurtz officiated. Also attending were Oak Ridge District Superintendent Adam McKee and Knoxville News-Sentinel reporter Matthew Best.

“Everyone in the church has been so helpful,” said Drake, Luminary’s lay representative at Annual Conference. “They were so moved when we told them the story. We all need to focus less on ourselves and more on others.”

“It has meant more to me and Brandy than they will ever know,” said Tesha Long, lifelong member at Luminary and mother of the bride. “To be part of a church that cares so much for their people means so much.”

“I want to thank you and your wife for everything that you did,” Long told Rev. Kurtz. “Thanks for doing the service and being a great counselor. Thank you and your church.”

See also:

  • Pooh wonders, "Are we missional, or merely mission minded?" (The Pastor's Buzz, blog by Rev. Buzz Trexler) 


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Annette Spence

Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newsletter.