27 February 2009

Love is in the air…and so, apparently, is Spring!

Spring has sprung in Barford. The infamous washing-line in out and up in the garden, and has today, made its official laundry-drying debut for 2009! But, alas, this is Britain, so of course heavy snow and more winter cold has been forecast for next week. So, we must make merry, and do laundry while we may! I am actually sitting outside, with laptop and cup of tea, for the first time in I don’t even know how many months. People are shedding hats and scarves, and there is a general sense of giddiness in the air…

The DEB and I have a busy weekend ahead. We are attending a Wedding Fayre at The Glebe Hotel – finally, my first English Wedding Fayre!!! I’m so excited I can’t stand it! But, alongside the frivolity of flowers, favo(u)rs and shoes, we are also doing some serious contemplation. Allow me to explain…

As you may recall, several months ago, I was weeping into my tea about the fact that the Brits seem to take marriage less seriously as a concept than their American counterparts. And in many ways, I still believe that to be true. Period. (see posting: “Always Something There to Remind Me” - October 2008).

However. I do need to revise this sentiment just a bit. Marriage is a very, very serious business if one wants the blessing and approval of the Church of England. As a proud Episcopalian, at this stage in my life, there could be no other way forward for me than a church wedding. My first marriage was a civil ceremony, and I while I’m not blaming the type of ceremony for the failure of the relationship, I must say, I did not enter into it with the contemplative sincerity that the C of E is currently demanding.

First, our local vicar had to be “the first to know” as it were (although, I think I actually blogged about it just after the DEB proposed, so in essence the vicar was the second to know!) Then, we had our first meeting with the Parish Wedding Coordinator, Mrs. Macbeth. There were tons of forms we had to fill in and ton of things we had to remember, i.e., where we had each been baptized and/or christened. We discussed initial thoughts, plans and ideas about the service/ceremony, if we gained the vicar’s approval.

The burning question for us both was: Do we need “Permission to Marry” from the British Government to make this happen? Apparently—and I have asked this question at every juncture, and have been given the same answer—the answer is no, we don’t. It seems that the Church of England as an entity, shares a similar authority to the government, and has the power and right to sanction unions between individuals who are British citizens and non-British citizens. Interesting.

I think apart of the reason why or how, this is possible, is that, again, Marriage is taken very seriously by the C of E. As much as I adore Jonathan Rhys Meyers, and his dishy portrayal of Henry VIII in the American television series, “The Tudors,” I won’t waste space here bleating on about how ironic it is that the C of E has some (underscore some) very conservative views about marriage and re-marriage, given its own rather, how shall I put this delicately, complex history on the issue.

Suffice it to say, the D.E.B. and I have been very, very fortunate and blessed. As our union will be a “second time” for both of us, we were required to gain the permission and approval to marry within the C of E from our local vicar. Thankfully, our vicar is a kind, gentle and loving man, who takes a very merciful and compassionate view on the subject. “Marriage is meant to be for life, but sometimes, and it is regrettable, that is not always the case, for whatever reasons.” he said to us. What is hoped is that we can learn from these reasons/failings/mistakes and move forward and be better in the future, because of them.

Unfortunately, not all C of E (and maybe even some Episcopalians, too?) don’t see it this way, and take a more staunch (and I would say unyielding) approach that you get “one shot” at God blessing your union, the next time(s) you’re on you own.

Okay, maybe that’s a little unfair, the Church does provide an alternative. Instead of a full-blown religious wedding ceremony, the couple and their union–which has taken place outside the church—can come to church and have blessing. Call me simple, but this seems much of a muchness to me. How are those two things really different? Surely God’s blessing, is just, God’s blessing. But, what do I know?

And another thing! (I’m on a roll now.) I believe that God is a God of second chances (and for some, maybe even third, four and fifth chances, I don’t know!) I don’t mean to preach a sermon, but, look, life is just too short. If two people love each other, and are coming to the table with serious intentions, what’s the problem? We all make mistakes. Lighten up, C of E! I’d write Rowan (The Archbishop of Canterbury), but I think he has enough on his plate right now…

Speaking of serious intentions, The DEB and I had our official meeting with the vicar one evening in January at the Rectory. We had to share details of our past marriages: what was good about them, and what went wrong. We then had to talk about our relationship, what our hopes, fears, and expectations for the future are/were. Our vicar is awesome. And he has a great sense of humour! I think that helps, a lot.

Still, it can be quite nerve wrecking to think that your future—or at least the version of how you would like to see it played out—is in someone else’s hands. And I think that is what concerns me. The DEB and I gained our vicar’s permission to marry, but if we had had another vicar, we may not have been so lucky.

Okay, it helped that we are also active and regular churchgoers in the parish, and we hadn't just turned up wanting to use the church a “wedding venue.” As the vicar said to me: “It is clear to me that the Church is an active and important of your life, and of who you are as a person, how could I deny you the opportunity of marrying here?” What a gift. And a gift that neither of us takes lightly, because it could just as easily have gone the other way.

There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage. – Martin Luther

Two or three Sundays ago was: “Celebration of Marriage Sunday” at St. Peter’s.  It was a very interesting service wherein all the husbands and wives in the congregation re-affirmed their vows and commitments.  The DEB and I remained silent, of course, but we were very hopeful and happy that next year this time, we shall be joining in and doing the same.

The sermon was very thought-provoking and challenged us all to think deeply about this pivotal human relationship. Ultimately, the word to the wise was that Marriage is serious business. The wedding is the public celebration of a very real and very serious commitment. It is a gift from above.

While cooking Sunday lunch that day, I reflected upon my own failings in the past regarding marriage. I acknowledge that I lacked seriousness when I approached this institution in the past. In other words, it was all about “getting married” with very little thought to the concept of “being married,” which ain’t always easy.

For this reason I am glad that the DEB and I are required to attend Marriage Preparation classes. During these sessions, we, and other couples from our parishes, will be reflecting upon “Life after the Wedding.” A very worthy pursuit.

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