This week feels like good news for so many couples and families. After 18 months of shifting plans, of disappointment, of altered guest lists, of anxiety and stress, at last the wedding can go head at the local church in just the way you imagined.
Or can it? Now there are worries about whether all the guests will feel safe or be safe and trying to understand the different needs of the church, the venue, the family and friends. Into all of this steps the vicar, the parish administrator and others who help at weddings, and at christenings. You will also be feeling anxious as the biggest event you have seen for 18 months will probably be a wedding at the church in the next few weeks.
One of the great things about having a church wedding is the unique way we work with couples, getting to know them over a period of time, finding out what has really gone on in their lives, and joining them in their special moment. It’s similar for christenings too – that opportunity to talk to those who have invited us to be part of their story, and to share our good news with them as we introduce them to Jesus.
Planning and preparing is something we do together with couples and families – from the very practical to the very profound. We balance the warmth of care and support with good practice that ensures everyone can be confident that they will have a smooth, safe, secure and special service.
Practically, this will mean talking to couples and families about how your church can manage risk safely, which may mean that 100 guests is still not possible. It will mean talking together and perhaps thinking creatively as we talk through how to make things work. This won’t always be easy, but listening carefully, being confident in why we need to set limits to help everyone, (including church people), to be safe will help.
In a profound way, every couple and family we meet has been impacted by the past 18 months. Seven out of 10 people have been unable to go to the funeral of someone they knew, and four out of 10 have lost someone close, and all these situations have been difficult, whatever the cause of death. There have been missed joys as well as missed sorrows.
The words we offer in prayer, whether in the vows at a wedding, or the promises at a baptism, may now feel even more significant. There is space to be creative in this – lighting candles for those we miss, involving people in praying for one another, reflecting the reality in the talks we give.
Life Events research done during the pandemic confirmed again that when people are involved at the heart of a wedding or christening at a Church of England church, they go away feeling close and connected. The impact is even greater around funerals. These are treasured moments that last in people’s memories.
The Life Events team prays every day for those involved in weddings, christenings and funerals, especially so as you work over this summer with its mixed emotions of joy and anxiety. We pray that you will know wisdom and peace in the weeks ahead, and be able truly to say, yes, it is good news that we share.