Nearly 50 clergy from the Diocese of Durham have been debating what church wedding can be in todays world at a review of the Church of England’s Weddings Project at St Michael’s and All Angels, Houghton-le-spring today wednesday (23rd October). It’s the biggest day of a couple’s life. Celebration is afoot but tension is also in the air. One wrong move and the wedding day can be ruined. Members of the clergy were joined by The Right Revd Mark Bryant Bishop of Jarrow at St Micheal’s in a session organised by Director of Ministerial Development, The Revd Canon Stephen Cherry to give clergy the latest thinking on the role of the Church on a couples wedding day and how a church wedding can offer something more than the legal requirement of getting married. The session was lead by Gillian Oliver author of the CofE Church Weddings Handbook and the original Church of England project coordinator supported by The Ven. John Barton – also a contributor to the book. The session discussed seven key opportunities the Church has to build relationships with marrying couples in the period between engagement and their first anniversary. The seven opportunities are: The First Call, The First Meeting, Space to Think, Reading the Banns, The Big Day, The Warm Glow, First Anniversary.
Even though couples have more choices of wedding venue than ever before, 22% still choose a traditional church wedding. Over the past few years, the Church of England’s Weddings Project has been trying to ensure that clergy up and down the country provide the best possible experience. The result discussed at the workshop outlined to participants how they can seeks to ensure that churches are as welcoming as possible on the big day.
Stephen Cherry said: “this day had been all about clergy learning more about what couples want from their wedding day. The input is based on real research which shows just how seriously people are when they come to get married in church. The message to the clergy is to reach out to this with warmth and generosity and to help people to have weddings that are both traditional and up to date, both the same as everyone else’s and very special and personal to them.”
Gillian said: “Many people who aren’t churchgoers don’t realise that they can have a church wedding, and we’re trying to correct that by stressing we’re open to everyone. The whole point about the wedding project was to exam what couple wanted from their wedding day and what they most valued in the seven stages of pastoral involvement that the church has with the couple.”
Stephen said: “Like most areas of professional life, developmental training and continuous updates to best practice are common place. For clergy this is called continuing ministerial development. This session was one of the many opportunities that are available to clergy in the Diocese to assist in the development of their ministerial practice.”