JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - If you've ever heard Bishop Rudolph McKissick Jr. preach, he doesn't hold any punches.
"I don't care what none of these folks think because they shacked up before," he said.
When the Lord speaks, he listens. Last month, he was led to preach about "righteously redefining relationships." He was talking specifically to unmarried couples living together.
"You're saying we love the Lord too much to keep living out of his will as a couple. I want you to come to the alter right now," McKissick said.
Gwannetia Hall and Christopher Johnson have been living together for five years. They were sitting in the pew that morning when McKissick asked couples to come forward to make a commitment.
"We're going to have a joint wedding if you're bold enough to say you want to get married," McKissick said.
Johnson decided they were going to move their wedding date up.
"As soon as he said it, I grabbed her hand and was like, 'Come on,'" he said. "She thought I was kidding though. She started laughing and saying, 'Oh, are you serious?' I said, 'Come on, let's go.'"
They walked down together, along with eight other couples, to stop making excuses and make it official.
"God is truly amazing. He has brought both of us through a lot," Hall said.
But it didn't end there. McKissick asked for volunteers to help with the ceremony. Those people were right there in the church and volunteered to make the day complete. There were even volunteers who aren't Bethel members.
Hugh Harby, of Harby Jewelers, isn't affiliated with Bethel. He's giving couples titanium wedding bands or 40 percent off another purchase.
"You could tell just from listening to her story that this was a big God moment in her church," Harby said. "I enjoyed hearing the story, and it was a great way for us to partner with their church."
This mass wedding has become a reality in just a few short weeks. But for the nine couples, it's been a dream come true.
"It's never too late, never too late, and you have to fight through your troubles, you have to just hang in there and just give it to the Lord," Allen said. "And I prayed and it happened. I'm excited. I cant wait for the 16th."
The wedding day is at 1:30 p.m. Saturday. The couples have gone through several counseling sessions to make sure they're ready for the commitment.
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