My father’s family is big. His father came from a small town called Summerhill, Pennsylvania. My grandfather had six siblings and they each had many children of their own. Growing up we were always closest to my great Aunt Marg’s family. She had six children who were all around my parent’s ages which meant their kids were my age. It was perfect going to visit: my sister and I would go hang with our cousins while my parents hung with theirs. Driving from northwest Ohio to Western PA was something we did every summer at least once. If we were lucky, we would go twice. It just depended on who was getting married that summer.
I went to my first wedding at the ripe old age of 15 days old for my mother’s cousin’s wedding. Since then, I’ve been to at least 1-2 a year so roughly 40-50 ceremonies in my 27 years. Sometimes it would be a huge extravaganza. Sometimes it was small and sweet. We always got invited to the party. Growing up in Ohio meant visiting our relatives in PA was a welcome get away. So you would think convincing 2 girls to share the back of a Chevy Astro van might have been a disaster, me made it fun. My sister and I actually enjoyed the road trips. Usually she would read a few books while I jammed to my cd’s on my Walkman. It was the nineties so we would also play car bingo and lightning fast rounds of slug bug.
All of our PA relatives were catholic. So the catholic mass wedding was the part we grew to loath simply because asking two little girls to sit still and quiet for two hours was a daunting task. Why did it have to take so long? Can’t we just get to the cake? I wanted to run around with my cousins at the reception! As I got older, the wedding ceremony was the part I grew to like. It was fun watching the nervous groom as his wife walked down the aisle as everyone else was looking at the beautiful bride. The smile and look on his face was always my favorite part long before Katherine Heigl spoke of it in her movie “27 Dresses.” As a kid, the bride and groom seemed so much older and mature than me. Listening to the same ceremony over and over again gave me lots of time to think about marriage and plan my own fantasy in my head.
Now that I am engaged, planning my wedding has become a reality. We look at venues and think about who will make the cake. My first thought is the have the wedding at a church. This part becomes tricky because not all churches support my marriage. The “same-sex marriage” debate is battled in our national politics as well as in our local churches. It can bring people together but more often, has been tearing families apart. Not just biological families but church families as well have been impacted.
Instead of being on one side or the other, our churches should be focusing on the joining of two souls together in the presence of God and their loving supportive family and friends. Our churches have challenged themselves over time to find what matters most in a marriage, and that one value is love. No matter what those couples look like. Throughout history, many other marriages have been shunned in churches. I am reminded of my own Grandmother who could not have her wedding to my Grandfather during the day at her church because she was pregnant with my father. In times of segregation and the African American civil rights movement in the 1960’s, interracial marriage was not allowed in churches.
The reasons behind these oppressive acts were thought to be, at the time, biblically based. Because “the bible says it’s a sin” is usually the first place churches go to shun a union they don’t want to have in their church. I’m sure many other couples have had similar situations whether the couple may be “too young” to get married, or maybe the bride and groom are 20 years apart in age, or maybe the wife was married previously. Churches provide excellent resources for couples to make sure they’re a good compatible team and that they are not entering into the marriage in haste. Pre-marital counseling sessions help the couple have a long happy marriage. If the pair truly loves one another and want to share it with their friends and family, the church should do everything it can to help host the joyous event.
In today’s modern times, churches are seeing a decline in membership. Finding new ways to reach possible church members is a constant concern. How do you bring people in? Marriages can bring those same supportive friends and family into the church family. Rejecting a marriage does the exact opposite to a church. What better way to show the stock of a church family than to open the doors of the church to all who want to have a spiritual experience? Likewise, a rejection of marriage means there is an entire network of individuals you now cannot reach out to.
Growing up in a wonderfully giving church family, I remember seeing marriages of my friends and their new spouse would come to church with them. Then, more would start to join with them. This is what churches are about: loving communities of faith, growing through helping one another. Looking back at my PA relatives, I saw their church families do just this while at the ceremony and beyond. The couple matures together and maybe their family grows too and those children are brought up in the church. Marriages are how our churches today can cultivate themselves into blossoming communities of love.
Why do YOU think the church should care about marriage?