The Rector

   THE RECTOR

Summer made several false starts this year beginning with a short visit in April briefly reprised early in May. Even the glorious sunshine of the royal wedding day was tempered, at least in these parts, by a chill coastal breeze. But no such chill attended the event itself. It was a truly joyous occasion, a beautifully crafted balance of liturgical formality and pageantry on the one hand with, on the other,   contributions pertinent to both Harry and Meghan and  modern British society. But the true joy of the occasion radiated from the couple themselves and the delight and tenderness that they found in each other. All who remember Harry, the twelve year old boy, walking behind his mother’s coffin on that saddest of September days, will surely have been thrilled to witness this moment of glorious fulfillment in his life.

One of the unusual features of the occasion was that the preacher attracted so much attention. In this most secular of ages the fact of a wedding being a Service – an act of worship offered in praise to God – is generally overlooked. The church is merely the venue and the specifically religious elements  of the ceremony are regarded as the plain fabric onto which the items of ‘real’ interest are sewn. But not this time. Michael Curry, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal (Anglican) Church of the USA, is a preacher of a kind never previously heard at a royal wedding. His comments on the power of love to transform the world, beginning with its irruption into personal lives and encounters, was heartwarming and a most necessary corrective in these divided and uncertain times. What a pleasure it was to see his message so visibly demonstrated in the lives of the principal participants and to come together in a spirit of celebration that even allowed us to forget the dreaded B word for a while. It was good to be reminded that love, so gentle and vulnerable is our true hope, a flame that will never be extinguished. 

At the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2011 the preacher was the then Bishop of London, Richard Chartres. There was no pulpit drama in his presentation but the substance of his homily was  just as memorable. He referred to the couple as King and Queen, not of the future but of the moment. They were, he said, the King and Queen of Creation for every young couple on their wedding day signify God’s purposes for his Creation. For whether they are people of faith or not, the love they share is of God, the ultimate Sovereign who is Love itself, the very life-force of creation without whom  all that is would cease to be.  At that time, and in that moment the couple are supremely privileged to be living signs of God’s sovereignty. In the Greek Orthodox wedding liturgy this is represented by the use of marriage crowns and there are echoes of the custom in the rite of blessing in our own Common Worship liturgy when the priest prays, may their love for each other be a seal upon their hearts and a crown upon their heads.

Another feature of the service, common now in most church marriages, but never before seen at a royal wedding, was the affirmation from the people. The Archbishop asked if they would support Harry and Meghan in their marriage, now and in the years to come. They answered with a resounding We Will. It is  a  small but important part of the service for it is asking people to recognize that marriage is not a fairytale once made, but a lifelong enterprise, comforting and sustaining, yet at times deeply challenging. Marriage requires humility and forgiveness from husband and wife, unobtrusive support from family and friends, and the grace that God alone can supply. For the grace that flows from the death and resurrection of Christ, gifted to us by the Holy Spirit, is both life-giving and renewing. It’s potential in every life and every marriage is transformative. We pray that the marriage of Harry and Meghan and indeed all our lives and relationships may abound in that grace.

Charles Booth

 


 


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View from the Rectory - May 2018
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View from the Rectory - April 2018
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View from the Rectory - March 2018
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View from the Rectory - February 2018
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