I had a wedding rehearsal tonight. B and K are getting married tomorrow afternoon. I've done hundreds of these and, if I might say so, I'm fair to middling with weddings. I keep everyone loose and humorous during the rehearsal. I'm pretty good at 'loose and humorous', if I might say so. I start at the end and end at the end, if that makes any sense. I start the rehearsal by practicing the 'going out part' which gets everyone paired up and ready to do the 'coming in part' and go through the service. Tonight's group laughed at all the laugh lines, so I think they are fine.
I have arguments with other priests--and probably with the canons of the church, if I ever bothered to read them--about weddings. Here's why. I think the 'church' is pretty much 'irrelevant' to our culture and society. So, when anybody wants the 'church' involved in their marriage, I am delighted, excited and ready to make it happen.
Lots of priests want people to 'prove themselves' by attending church regularly for some amount of time before the 'church' will be a part of their marriage. I actually think that people who don't attend church who want the church to be a part of their lives in such a remarkably profound moment are people God might want me to invite them into the myths and rituals that the church has to offer.
My definition of a ritual is this--"it is something that seeks to 'make sense' of life". And people, wanting to promise promises and vow vows that will 'make sense' of their lives and want the church's rituals to do that are people folks like me should be welcoming and hospitable to and, without causing them any guilt, let them know God wants to be part of their lives and their love and the crazy complications of being married.
I'm 'marrying Sam' in a way--my job, it seems to me, is to insert God into every crevice and crinkle of the fabric of their lives whenever invited. Have the couple be active and pledging members of the parish for a year before their marriage? I really don't give a fig. They want God messed up in their lives--in all the folds and fibers of their relationship and commitment and love??? That's enough for me. "Come on Down!" I say. Let me add God to all this and just wait and see what happens.
These are good people. I've talked with B and K a half-dozen times and 'counseled' them, if that's the word, about marriage. B's father is his best man. K's father is walking her down the long, long aisle. These are children of two intact families. The angels should serenade them for that alone in a time when marriage itself is an illusion and a temporary state. Sometimes I think the most the church could suggest is serial monogamy, not life-long marriage. And I simply am confounded by those in the church that would deny 'any sacrament' to anybody. The sacraments don't belong to the church, they belong to God. We are just the franchise that can administer them to those Children of God who come looking for them.
The option is to make the church more restrictive and exclusive and retain the sacraments (which are God's, after all, not the property of the church) to those who fit in, obey the rules, meet the standards, live up to the requirements. That direction, that option, which many folks I know support, is to make the church not only irrelevant but inaccessible to the very folks who need it and the very folks who still in some way 'believe' in the sacraments. That, I'm afraid, makes no sense to me.
Will B and K be active members of St. John's? Probably not. Will they, when they have a child, know there is a place that welcomed them and passed on the sacrament of God at their marriage that might just welcome them back with open arms to baptize their child? I think so. And will they, when their children begin asking questions they can't answer about life and death and the 'meaning of everything' consider, if not act on, coming 'home' to the church that is welcoming and open and inclusive to help them with raising their children? Maybe and maybe not. But either way, I want to be the one who opens the doors rather than closes them and leaves the rest to the good people who come to me seeking Sacrament and to God about what happens next.
Just me talkin'. Just me writin'. And that's what I truly believe. God 'opens' doors and windows and anything else that can be opened that might, otherwise, be closed.
Our God OPENS...That what God does, OPENS everything to possibility. And shame on us if we don't do the same....
Praise God for B and K, for their vows, their longing for God to be part of their relationship, their hopefulness, their openess, their marriage....Tomorrow--4 p.m.--2 made 1 by the One we all know, if only dimly. Pray for B and K that their vows will sustain them for decades and decades of struggle, doubt, wonder, love and joy.....
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