The privilege of being asked

andy-islaYesterday I got to be involved in something really special and is one of those highlights of ministry that is not repeated too often. Yesterday I got to officiate at the wedding of Isla and Andy … Isla being the daughter of one of my best friends Jeremy, who I was ordained with and has been, along with his beautiful wife, Ruth, pretty central and to my life and encouraging since we met.

Weddings can be fun and yesterdays was!
The laughter, right from walking down the aisle, was pretty central to the whole ceremony and day … and I’ve never been to a wedding where the newly married couple walks out of church to ‘Madnesses ‘It must be love’. Genius!

The love between Andy and Isla is real and tangible … and I love how it’s welcoming and inclusive and attracts their friends, rather than embarrasses which many luvvy couples can inadvertently do without meaning to.

Yesterday I got to see this great couple make promises to each other, I got to see the look of love on their parents faces and I got to meet some amazing family members …. who know how to party and celebrate well … thank you for calling me ‘a member of the family’ … that means so so much! I look forward to meets in Ramsgate and Sunderland!

Thanks Andy and Isla for asking me … it’s been a massive massive privilege to serve you in this way and you’ll regularly be in my prayers.

love, friends, and stuff!

1016681_10153085454635655_1129265918_nLast Saturday was another one of those special times. 
I seem to have had a few of those over the last few months (see here for a reminder!)

Saturday was another amazing privilege as I blessed the marriage of Zara and Rikard, a beautiful couple who have become great friends over the past 3 years or so. It was a privilege to be involved, and it was special to see so many Rochester friends again (oh how I miss our coffees and beers together!) I love this couple because of who they genuinely are; for their absolute and complete love for each other that does not exclude or make others feel awkward, for their unreserved (some might say geeky) modesty when we come to talk about their creativity, for their values and passions which are focussed on life and loved ones. Most of all I love them because they are simply special friends. 

At the blessing on LV21 (a cool location!) we used the Apache blessing, which I think sums up who they are as individuals, as a couple, as family members and as friends. 

I continue to pray this for them, as I’m sure other friends do too, for today…. and for well into the future:

Now you will feel no rain
For each of you will be shelter to the other.
Now you will feel no cold
For each of you will be warmth to the other.
Now there is no more loneliness for you
For each of you will be companion to the other.
Now you are two bodies
But there is only one life before you.
May beauty surround you both
on the journey ahead,
and through all the years
may happiness be your companion.
Go now to your dwelling place
To enter into the days of your togetherness
And may your days be good, and long, upon the earth.
So …
Be ever
in the embrace of God your Creator
Be ever 
in the embrace of God your Redeemer
Be ever
in the embrace of God your Sustainer
be ever
in the embrace of each other.
Amen. 

God bless you both …. for who you are, and for who you will become …. Amen! 

Once in a while …

wedding-rings-wallpaper1Once in a while being ordained brings some pretty amazing surprises and privileges. I have one such privilege over the next few days as I travel to Seattle to marry a pretty special couple who I have got to know, mainly from my placement at COTA and their time with me in Rochester.

I feel undeserving of such an experience but am feeling very excited to be able to take part in a ceremony of such significance and beauty for a couple I have come to care deeply about. The service will be beautiful and reflects well the couple I have got to know.

So … as a sideline as well I am off to drink coffee, hopefully a porter or two, check out some sights and meet with some old friends …. but most of all I get to play a small part in a pretty special and amazing day for Meghan and Lucas.

Once in a while …. we find ourselves in special places … amazing!

COTA video

A few years ago I had the amazing experience of being on placement with COTA in Seattle. I’ve just seen that the Episcopal Church You Tube channel’s latest video shows the creativity and authenticity of COTA. I don’t tend to post videos here, but COTA is special so I am today.

I don’t think I’ve mentioned here that I’m looking forward to going back to COTA in June for a week …. and have the real privilege of conducting the wedding ceremony for a very special and beautiful couple, while staying with another wonderful couple as well! I think it’s going to be an amazing time. The closer it gets to June the more excited I seem to be getting!

Anyway … if you haven’t done so yet, click the video and have a watch.

we are all guests

Yesterday I attended a day’s training out on be the diocese and The Weddings Project. The purpose of the day was to help us to make sure our weddings were as good for the couple as they possibly good be and that we, as churches, give a clear message that marriage is a good thing and that we want to help those who are considering this big step. The weddings projects has identified some particular good ways where we can help and work with the couple …. but I’m not going to go into them as you can read them on the weddings project website if you want to.

The day started with the video that I have posted above. We were asked to watch the video and chat about why this has been seen by nearly 59 million people and how we would feel, and how our church would feel, if we held a wedding like this. As the video progressed a tear was brought to my eye – just for the sheer joy this couple and their guests were expressing – it was amazing to see.

When we got to the discussion I think a majority of people were enthusiastic but there were a significant number of worried voices – people concerned with how it would make them look, people concerned that if we ‘allowed’ this then people would just be taking the mickey out of the seriousness of the ceremony. These people seemed to be trying to ‘protect’ something … but their concern worried me because I think they were in danger of falling into the trap of thinking that our ministry is all about us. It’s easy to think we have control and this, I think, is one of the reasons why church weddings are in decline.

As church, as Christians, we need to realise we are called to serve, to make a difference, to welcome. We are not called to maintain a status quo, we are called to exist for the benefit of others.

The Archbishop of York reminded us in his amazing poignant way yesterday via a video clip that we do not own the church:

‘We are guests, not hosts. As guests we bring gifts – our building, our faith, our truth. Christ is the host and we are invited a long’

We are all guests in Christ’s church. Christ loves it when we come and Christ loves it when others come. As guests we are asked to invite other guests …. but we can’t tell them how they should come, or how they should behave, or what they should do ….. we are not hosts …. we are guests. The host is Jesus and, as we now, Jesus is accepting of everyone … no matter how they look, sound, behave or what they believe.

During this Advent time of waiting I have been thinking, with little success, of some aspect of my faith to contemplate futher. I wonder whether I have had little success and have had to start late, or wait, this Advent because yesterday God shared with me something I need to re-learn, remember and re-contemplate ….

I am a guest in Christ’s church, not a host.

solo wedding

It’s been a great weekend and on Saturday I did my first wedding alone (as in without another priest to hold my hand) in the cathedral. Its seemed to go well but most importantly the bride and groom and their family were very happy.

I was again quite nervous – probably more so knowing there was no one to bail me out of I lost my way or was not sure of what was going on. But … it shows that those involved in my training have done a good job as all went ok. 
The most amazing thing as I reflect on the day and experience is the privilege it is to share with Zoe and Tony and to be able to play just a small part in their family history is a pretty amazing experience. Please pray for them as they start their married life together.

my first wedding

I experienced another first at the weekend in ‘doing’ my first wedding. Until this particular day the most nervous I had been was just before signing the opening 3 lines of the eucharistic prayer in the cathedral. That still gets to me (I was in the office this morning practicing 45 mins. before the service started!) but I was very surprised how nervous I was before the wedding ceremony yesterday.

I guess I was very conscious of how things could go ‘wrong’ with signing licences and the other legal stuff. More importantly this is a very special, and unrepeatable day, for this couple. I really wanted to ensure I had prepared fully so that they could enjoy their day as much as possible.

Everything seemed to go well and I was struck, again, how fortunate I am as I get to share some very special moments with people. To be able to serve people in this way is pretty amazing and I am remembering again how privileged I am in being where I am doing what I am doing.

I get to officiate at another wedding next week so that’s pretty cool!