A Funny Thing Happened While Researching Algorithms

Carrington Moore never liked the idea of online dating. In the summer of 2014, though, joining Match all of a sudden became a professional obligation.

Mr. Moore, 34, of Cambridge, Mass., was starting a business, Go Break Bread, with a pair of friends that year. Liftoff of the project, meant to be like Meetup except for building religious communities online, depended on them getting a grip on how algorithms work. “We had figured out that dating apps were the best place to research algorithms, but one of my friends was in a relationship, and the other one was like, ‘I’m married,’” he said. Mr. Moore, being single, was singled out. “They were like, ‘Carrington, you’ve got to do it.’”

But his mission to research, and research only, was thwarted instantly when Schnelle Shelby’s picture popped up. “Schnelle came up wearing this zebra print dress,” he said. “She seemed really interesting and really pretty. I stalked her for like 30 minutes.”

Mr. Moore is an associate pastor at Bethel AME Church in Boston and the program director of Massachusetts Council of Churches. When he joined Match, he had just ended an on-again, off-again relationship that had endured since high school. His reluctance to date online was longstanding. “In my family you’re supposed to meet someone at a dance, the old-school way,” he said.

Ms. Shelby, 38, of Boston, had no such reservations. “Honestly, every boyfriend I’ve ever had I met online,” she said. “I was on them from the very beginning, when people were on Black Planet.”

In 2014, she was having trouble meeting men offline for a couple of reasons. “I work in finance, and I was not going to deal with people I work with outside of work,” she said. Ms. Shelby is a vice president of the State Street Corporation. Her hobbies also may have been off-putting to men. “I was competing in bodybuilding at the time,” she said. “I didn’t look approachable at the gym. And I was doing pole dancing and ballet for fitness. There’s not many men doing those things.”

It took more than two weeks for Mr. Moore to gather the courage to message Ms. Shelby for a date. Before he did, he brushed up his own profile. “I added a picture of me in the gym, and one of me in Turkey,” he said. That was to signal to Ms. Shelby, whose profile made mention of bungee jumping in China, that he, too, could be adventurous.

The signaling worked. “I don’t remember what he said to me, but it must have been good because I was like, OK, cool, let me go on a date with him,” Ms. Shelby said. As suitors go, he wasn’t ideal. He was still in his 20s and she had already passed 30. And his profession gave her pause. “He’s a pastor. I’m spiritual, but I’m not a go-to-church-every-Sunday person.”

Mr. Moore followed his father, George Moore, also a pastor, into a life in the church. He grew up with five siblings and his father and stepmother, Sheila Moore, in Youngstown, Ohio. His mother, Faye Hall Moore, died from Alzheimer’s disease in 2018. After graduating with a bachelor’s degree from Youngstown State in 2010, he received a Master of Divinity in 2013 at Boston University.

Ms. Shelby, the middle of three sisters, grew up in Queens, N.Y., with her mother, Rose Goodridge, and stepfather, Mark Solari. Her father, Harold Shelby, lives in Washington. Ms. Goodridge, who is Liberian, surrounded her children with West African traditions, including colorful fashions she often sewed herself.

For her first date in June with Mr. Moore, at Ryles Jazz Club in Cambridge, Ms. Shelby wore a gold halter dress with a high-low hem made by her mother. Mr. Moore was not the only one who admired it. Before he had a chance to introduce himself, he ran into a colleague at the club. “There must have been five people in there when I walked in,” he said. “One of them was Schnelle and another was a deacon from my church. This deacon was like, ‘Why are you here?’” Mr. Moore pointed out Ms. Shelby and said he was on a date. “He was like, ‘My man!’”

“When you see Schnelle in person, she’s stunning,” he said. “The way she moves, the clothes she wears, her natural style.”

By the end of the date, he was mesmerized and fighting a stab of self-consciousness. Ms. Shelby, a New Yorker, had taken the train to Ryles. “But I’m from Ohio,” he said. “Nobody from Ohio gets on a train.”

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He had driven his 2000 Oldsmobile Alero. “The A.C. didn’t work.” Ms. Shelby accepted a sweat-basted ride home to her condo anyway. Three more dates followed. By the end of No. 4, she was no longer able to shake the feeling that Mr. Moore was not Mr. Right.

“I could just tell he was ready for a relationship, and he’s a pastor, and I didn’t want him trying to convert me,” she said. “I’m comfortable in my spirituality. Plus, four years seemed like a big deal then.” When he called her for a fifth date, she demurred. “She was like, ‘I’m good,’” Mr. Moore said. “I’ve worked with young people, so I’m pretty good with vernacular.” He understood, correctly, that she was no longer interested.

For Ms. Shelby, calling it off with Mr. Moore was like ripping off a Band-Aid. “I didn’t want to string him along,” she said. For Mr. Moore, it was proof that online dating had backfired. It hadn’t even delivered as a research tool: Shortly after he joined Match, the Go Break Bread partners disbanded.

He still hadn’t figured out why Ms. Shelby rejected him when they encountered each other next, in February 2018, at the red carpet premiere of “Black Panther” at Regal Fenway and RPX theater in Boston. Ms. Shelby, dressed in a gold and orange dress made by Ms. Goodridge, had stopped at a nearby Panera Bread before meeting friends. There, she saw a woman she knew vaguely. “We were like, ‘Hey, how you doing,’ and then she started complaining about her boyfriend,” Ms. Shelby said. “She thought he was going to make them late for the premiere. Then here comes her boyfriend, and it’s Carrington.”

Mr. Moore had been in the Panera restroom. When he came out, “I didn’t see it was Schnelle at first, and I’m like, ‘Who’s this fine sister talking to my girlfriend?’” he said. He was once again thunderstruck. “I had thought of Schnelle through the years as the one that got away.”

He could hardly believe it when she reached out four months later, while he was in the middle of a performance with a local Playback Theater group he had joined in Roxbury. “It was intermission, and I see a call from Schnelle Shelby,” he said. “Normally you shake hands with everyone when it’s over, but I was like, ‘Nope, I’m not doing that.’” Instead, he went straight to his car to call her. “I said, ‘What’s up, Schnelle? This is Carrington.’” He and the Panera girlfriend had broken up; not long after, he texted Ms. Shelby to let her know she was still on his mind. But he hadn’t gotten a return text. Ms. Shelby hadn’t meant to call him, either.

“It was a butt dial,” she said. But it set the wheels of a second chance for Mr. Moore in motion.

A week later, they were sitting across from each other at Stephanie’s on Newbury, a brunch spot in Boston’s Back Bay. “I felt like I never really gave Carrington a full shot,” Ms. Shelby said. The universe, or at least an intuitive stranger, seemed to be in on the plan to provide him one. At the restaurant, a hostess had seated them in a noisy section.

“It was really hard to hear,” Mr. Moore said. “I was trying to figure out how to make it better when this waiter looks at me and said, ‘Hey, bro, do you like your seat?’ I’m like, ‘No, I don’t.’ Then he takes us to a corner of the restaurant, to almost like a love booth. Then he paid for our dessert. It felt like God saying, ‘I move to ordain this relationship now.’”

By the end of July, they were calling each other boyfriend and girlfriend. By late September, they had met each other’s families and Mr. Moore had traded in his car for an S.U.V., which he used to help Ms. Shelby’s younger sister, Nhia, move into a dorm room at Wellesley College. He got to know, and love, Liberian customs, especially the food.

“Carrington had never had cassava leaf,” Ms. Shelby said. “Now he loves Liberian food, so much my mom ships it to him.” By the end of 2018, Ms. Shelby and Mr. Moore were talking about marriage.

The following March they picked out a Montana sapphire ring from Brilliant Earth in Boston, but Ms. Shelby wanted a surprise proposal. Mr. Moore pulled that off on Sept. 15, during a trip to Belize. It wasn’t easy.

For the evening beach proposal he envisioned, he needed to retrieve the ring from the hotel room’s safe. But after a day of exploring, Ms. Shelby had to be persuaded to go back to the room. “Then, while he was fumbling with the door, I was complaining because the mosquitoes are on steroids in Belize,” she said. Mr. Moore, whose heart was hammering at the prospect of proposing, reeled off some facts on the mosquito-adjacent topic of mayflies. “He said they’re basically born, procreate and die in five days. He told me to look it up.”

While he opened the safe, she did. “I’m reading the entire Wiki on mayflies on the couch,” she said. On their walk back to the beach, Ms. Shelby was still talking about them. The swarm finally cleared when Mr. Moore suggested they play five things, a game they concocted to show their appreciation for each other.

“It was different this time,” she said. “He had put more effort into it. He was saying these beautiful things about why he loved me.” Finally, Mr. Moore grabbed her hand. “Then he got down on one knee with the ring. I screamed ‘Oh my God!’ about 50 billion times. And then I said, ‘Yes! No takebacks!’”

On April 24, Ms. Shelby and Mr. Moore were married at Olio, an events space in Peabody, Mass., by the Rev. Ray Hammond, a pastor at Bethel AME Church, with the Rev. Gloria White-Hammond, also a pastor, taking part. The in-person guest list had been whittled from a pre-Covid count of 210 to 35.

Ms. Shelby, in a white mermaid wedding gown made by Ms. Goodridge, was escorted down an aisle strewn with rose petals by her mother, father and stepfather. Mr. Moore wore a sage tuxedo with a black bow tie.

Dr. White-Hammond, a pediatrician in addition to a pastor, praised Ms. Shelby’s values. “You’re dedicated to excellence,” she said. “That will serve you well in this marriage.” Mr. Hammond urged Mr. Moore to keep the faith. “Continue to be the man who prays on his knees but fights the good fight for justice on his feet,” he said.

In a reading of handwritten vows, Mr. Moore’s skills as an orator shined. “I love you, Schnelle,” he said. “I promise to always see your heart, and to see the beauty in you.” Ms. Shelby told Mr. Moore he was everything she didn’t know she needed.

After being pronounced married, they jumped a broom, to hearty applause, into life as husband and wife.

On This Day

When April 24, 2021

Where Olio, an events space in Peabody, Mass.

Kola Break During the ceremony, Ms. Goodridge was called to the altar to break a kola nut, a West African tradition. Ms. Shelby and Mr. Moore each ate half, to symbolize their respect and unity.

New Connections Because of the pandemic, the couple’s parents met in person for the first time at the wedding. Mr. Moore and Ms. Shelby’s first shared home will be Ms. Shelby’s Boston condominium.

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