I love ministry. It comes with moments bathed in the glory of God, rich in the complexity of human life, and brimming with surprise. And boy was I surprised this afternoon when a couple came knocking on the church door wondering what the church ‘hours’ were for weddings.
“Hours?” I asked.
“Yeah, like when do you marry people?”
I was pretty sure I knew where they were going with this. “Do you all want to get married… right now? Like a drive thru wedding?”
(I immediately felt terrible that my anticipation of the answer so vividly framed the question)
“Yes, we have the license right here.”
I hemmed and hawed for a second, trying to make sure this whole thing was really happening… then, I responded as directly and compassionately as I could, gently indicating a “theology of weddings.”
“No, we don’t do that here. We schedule our weddings at least a few months out because we include a measure of pre-marital counseling. We believe that weddings and the commitment to marriage happen best in the context of a supportive community and with purposeful reflection.”
They didn’t look surprised. Somehow I choked back the question I really wanted to ask, “um, and why aren’t you going to a justice of the peace?” Maybe I shouldn’t have choked that back.
They informed me that one of the corner churches here in Richmond had the reputation of marrying folks on the spot. They were hoping I could point them in that direction. I had no clue what they were talking about or what church that might be. So I referred them to the Methodists.
Methodists, please forgive me. I doubt you have the practice of instant weddings (just add clergy!), but I hoped your longer pastoral connection with the community might understand what/who they were talking about. That, and I have a habit of referring (seemingly) desperate folks who we can’t help to the Methodists (who, in turn, often refer to us at First Christian or another church–it’s a referral circle that the Richmond Area Ministerial Association is still working on sorting out).
After the couple hurried out the door to continue their hunt for wedded bliss, I stumbled back into the church office. I love ministry.