Pandemic-era wedding a simple, beautiful day for bishop of Ontario

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Bishop Michael Oulton and Sophie Kiwala were married at an intimate ceremony on July 25. Photo: Mark Hauser

Bishop of the diocese of Ontario Michael Oulton was married July 25, but the ceremony was not exactly the one he and his fiancée, Sophie Kiwala, had had in mind.

In fact, “it couldn’t have been more different than what we were originally planning,” Oulton says.

Both Oulton and Kiwala are public figures, he says—Kiwala is a former MPP in the Liberal government, and he is the bishop of his diocese—“So we started thinking about, how do we do this? Originally we were going to do a wedding where we would just sort of open it up to anybody who wanted to come.”

But in March, everything changed. As the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, forcing a shutdown of most public services and workplaces in Ontario, Oulton says they realized the wedding they had planned was not in the cards.

“You couldn’t even get a marriage license at that point,” he says. “The offices were all closed…. Everything went from these grand plans with casts of thousands down to [questions like], ‘Do we wait until after COVID’s done?’”

They decided not to wait. “There’s no crystal ball clear enough to say when the COVID pandemic is going to end and things are going to go back to normal.”

They planned the wedding for July 25, and abided by provincial guidelines on gatherings, meaning they were able to have a maximum of 10 people.

The service was held on Wolfe Island, at the home of Constance Carr—whose husband, the late Canon Chris Carr, a priest in the diocese, had passed away in early March.

Oulton and Kiwala were picked up in a white horsedrawn wedding carriage that took them through downtown Kingston to the ferry to the island.

Oulton says he was happy that his and Kiwala’s children could attend, as well as Alex Pierson, the diocesan executive officer and a longtime friend of Oulton’s, who acted as best man.

“There was such a beauty and a blessedness in the simplicity of it…. It went from this huge thing to this very simple thing—but it was beautiful.”

They were married by Bishop of the diocese of Niagara Susan Bell, “a wonderful colleague and a great friend,” Oulton says.

Since the wedding, Oulton has sold his home in Napanee and moved in to Kiwala’s home in Kingston. They plan eventually, Oulton says, to hold a party at which they’ll renew their vows, a way to make up for the kind of wedding they weren’t able to have.

In lieu of gifts, Oulton and Kiwala collected donations to organizations including the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund and the Anglican Healing Fund.

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Joelle Kidd

Joelle Kidd

Joelle Kidd joined the Anglican Journal in 2017 as staff writer. She has worked as an editor and writer for the Winnipeg-based Fanfare Magazine Group and as freelance copy editor for Naida Communications.

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