The BBC reports on churches trying to make themselves more attractive to couples planning a wedding and hope that it will increase membership as well over the years:
Faith groups would argue ... the underlying premise that marriage should be an important commitment made before God. They would say it is the opportunity for two people who love each other, to share God's love and to set out well prepared for one of life's most important journeys. They would say marriage is for life and needs to be entered into seriously.
That's the serious bit, but recently at St. Cuthbert's Church in Fulwood, the Church of England has launched a pilot project throughout Lancashire to ensure that wrapped around those religious vows, couples can experience a fun, romantic, happy occasion that will stay with them for life and bond them better to the church.
Clergy and officials from throughout the Blackburn Diocese gathered together to hear about The Weddings Project which offers a holistic approach to getting married in a C of E church.
Father Paul Bayse, the National Mission and Evangelism Advisor for the Church of England, led the day and explained to me that the church acknowledges we live in changing times.
It needs to keep pace with those around them. They want couples to use a new Weddings Project website to plan their whole wedding experience via the church. The website offers a selection of locations, hymns, catering, all the ingredients of a wedding. And then, after the church has waved the happy couple off on their honeymoon, they hope that same couple will keep in touch and find themselves more involved with church life.
Kevin Scully, in Ekklesia, comments:
Marriage in the Church of England is fast becoming a joke.
This is not a why-oh-why outburst – really – but one based on a prolonged reflection of the pointless cul-de-sac that is the offering of a marriage ceremony in church.
I should also point out that it would be a shame for me personally because, like many clergy, I do not often get the chance to officiate at such an occasion. When I do, I usually enjoy it but, given the state of affairs we are in, maybe that should not be counted as a plus. I should also add I deal with more enquiries than with services that actually occur.
How did we get to the state we’re in? The first response is easy: we confuse the social with the theological and then pretend we are being ‘pastoral’, using the bald tyre of ‘meeting people where they are’. We aspire to doing good instead of admitting that we are continuing what was always a cashing in on the sub-legal and cultural aspects of times past. We further disorient ourselves in that by doing this we are somehow traditional and worthy.
Attempts to keep a toe in the water by the General Synod of the Church of England are often portrayed as keeping the church in touch with people’s needs. To see the full horror of this, go to the church’s own official website. Its opening on marriage in the Life Events section should sound alarm bells for parish clergy:
‘Congratulations! You're welcome to marry in church whatever your beliefs, whether or not you are baptised and whether or not you go to church. And, marrying in church has never been easier thanks to a change in the law which means you now have more churches to choose from.’