Postmodern CofE weddings: "Just ask the church for what you want"
The recent statement from the House of Bishops has confirmed that - in accordance with Catholic doctrine and Church tradition - services of holy gay matrimony will not be performed in the Church of England. But that doesn't stop wedding ceremonies being thoroughly camp.
His Grace thought this website was a spoof - a rollicking send-up of the Church of England's endless capacity for irreverent travesty and self-parody. Alas, it is not: it is the Church's official website dedicated to making that special day really memorable, if not utterly peculiar. "We're here for you", they say:
Wherever and whenever you choose to get married, you make a public declaration of life-long commitment to love each other faithfully and take on a whole new legal status as husband and wife.So you'd think there might be a degree of propriety in the solemnisation: couples are, after all, swearing sacred vows before witnesses and making oaths before God. It is a sacrament, and "every wedding is a 'royal' one". In addition to that, marriage "boosts happiness" and "provides more and better sex". It's even "good for your health and extends your life".
There is a page dedicated to the biblical foundation of the institution, but it is couched beneath "What's so special about marriage". In this vacuous, dumbed-down era of post-modern liturgical accommodation to every fad and fetish, "You can choose" exactly the type of service you want. All you have to do is ask the nice vicar:
Our advice would be if you’ve got a dream for your wedding, don’t be afraid to ask the Church what you can do. You might be surprised at the answer you get.Surprised?
Not at all: there's very little that could surprise His Grace about the Church of England,
Derbyshire pub landlords Andy and Emma "wanted a fun wedding". So they asked for one:
They had many loyal pub customers and wanted them to be part of the celebrations too, so they decided to host a themed wedding at their pub which they based on the ‘wild west’.The Vicar brought out some Pritt Stick?
By the time the wedding arrived, they had transformed their pub car park with a marquee, complete with wild west backdrop, hog roast, cactus table decorations and more than 400 guests in a vast array of cowboy and cowgirl costumes.
Before the party, Andy and Emma had married in a register office, and Emma said: “I wanted to give something back to all our wonderful customers, so we planned this party, but I also wanted my marriage to include a Vicar. It was second time around for both Andy and me and we wanted it to be right. The local Vicar was very supportive and encouraging to us and said he was able to do a type of service in the marquee.”
The service was based on a Thanksgiving for Marriage service in the book of Common Worship.
Our advice would be if you’ve got a dream for your wedding, don’t be afraid to ask the Church what you can do. You might be surprised at the answer you get.
The Vicar, the Revd Tim Sumpter, arrived at the marquee wearing Stetson, leather waistcoat and neck tie, along with his dog collar. The bride arrived shortly afterwards on horseback, in denim cut-off shorts, checked shirt and Stetson.
“Tim completely changed my view of the church,” said Emma. “He was modern and funny but still did a very special service for us. We sat on chairs throughout, and the vows had a contemporary feel. Tim had a bit of fun with us and brought out some ‘Pritt Stick’ in the service to ‘glue us together’. It was brilliant.”
Andy added: “Our wedding really gelled our community and afterwards we were inundated with calls from other couples who wanted to do similar things."
No, you moron: marriage is supposed to be Super Glue: God is the cyanoacrylate whose dense monomers can withstand the fiercest flashpoint and irrevocably bind anything together.
Andy's and Emma's account is © The Archbishops' Council, but His Grace would urge that august and spiritually discerning body to order an immediate review into the irreverent and facile content of this website instead of wasting time suing His Grace for breaching publication restrictions.
It is true, however, that Andy and Emma were married in a registry office and Rev'd Tim was presiding over a service of thanksgiving. But surely the Way-out-West fancy dress belongs in the registry office. And one wonders, amidst the stetsons, spurs and buffalo herding, whether Jesus got much of a look-in.
And it's not as though this buckaroo bride is a one-off on this website: here's the Rev'd Andy Davies getting into the spirit of a "biker wedding". Yup, whether it's bronco-busting or burning rubber, the jolly CofE has got the party theme for you.
His Grace is all for applying theology to cultural context and making ecclesiology comprehensible. It is good to question traditions, test ideas and challenge sentiment. But not at the expense of theological reality and divine presence. And certainly not to the detriment of matrimonial decorum, ecclesiological dignity, or the exacting quest for holiness.