This immediate past Sunday our congregation had a treat. At the close of one of our worship services two of our own stepped forward and were married. It was a delight in all ways. The wedding was over in five minutes, it had to be. But that did not diminish its importance in the slightest.
Those few minutes clarified a great deal for me, not only about worship, but about weddings. Since we have multiple worship services every week and I’ve been at this for more than three decades I have led no less than 3,000 worship services. And I have presided at hundreds of weddings.
To begin with, the wedding in worship we witnessed this weekend would not, could not work for just anyone. The bride and groom are an intimate part of the community, the church being their spiritual home. Exchanging vows in that context was natural and beautiful because of that. And for the worshiping community, that five minutes at the close of worship did not detract from worship, but rather amplified the strong connection between our collective life together and our personal lives. It was testimony without being preachy.
In the Christian life we always say that weddings should be a form of worship. Some are more than others. Many lapse into cultural spectacles or shows. They can be more or less God-centered, depending. But it’s a hard thing to transform what has become a cultural stereotype into something more. When you attempt it, the result often comes off as mechanical or stilted – unless – you change the context of the wedding altogether. That means avoiding all the accoutrements and hype that normally accompany it.
When you attempt to transform a wedding into a worship there are built-in challenges. One is that over half of the crowd will not be there to worship. They are there because of friendship or kinship ties. A preponderance of attendees don’t worship regularly in any Christian community, if they are Christian at all. They have no experience or Christian formation that might help them understand a thing that’s going on. And when it comes to having communion at a wedding, we skate on thinner ice still. How do you invite people to participate in something that is little more than a mid-service snack?
Some weddings can become more worshipful – if you really work at it. And what I discovered this weekend is that it is possible to bring weddings – some weddings – to worship. They should somehow be informing one another, worship and weddings. And the souls at Broadway Christian Church just discovered that truth on a typical Sunday morning through a quintessential sign of loving God and one another.