Pause for Thought September 2016

I have had the privilege of conducting two weddings this summer……….two lovely young couples, one couple in Barnack and the other in Wittering, making their vows to one another in front of family and friends. These are always such special, happy occasions. Then, just yesterday, I returned to my old parish in Bedfordshire to attend the funeral of a much admired local farmer, whose marriage of over forty years had been very special and something his new widow really wanted celebrated in the service, surrounded by her children and grandchildren…….and this happened  with both dignity and love.

For many years most of us lived with the expectation that, in the words of the old Frank Sinatra song, ‘Love and marriage go together like a horse and carriage’ and I suppose assumed it would always be that way. How wrong we were! I think society struggles with such expressions that ‘It is only a piece of paper’ and consequently find it hard to see any difference between living together and being married. Bryony and Richard, Pippa and Shaun and Sally and Paul all know that it is all the difference in the world.  The words of the marriage service in church help to make that clear.

First it makes clear where we stand ……’for the whole of their earthly life together’. It makes the intention clear. It shows respect for the partner and also for the wider community. As the rings are exchanged it is ‘to remind them of the vow and covenant which they have made this day.’

In some secular marriage ceremonies couples write their own vows and when we see those in films or on television they seem very beautiful and romantic. The vows said in church could be regarded as a gift to the couple, showing they are embarking on a new way of life. They have a calling to live and love in a particular way – ‘ for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health’.  Marriage is not shaped for our convenience: vows are there to give shape to life together for our good and include some challenging features which remind us that this is about real life rather than an illusion.

As a wise person once said, ‘It’s not your love that will sustain your marriage, but your marriage that will sustain your love’  I pray that the couples for whom I conducted ceremonies this year will come to know that and that my friend Sally will be sustained in her grief by the knowledge of a marriage well lived.