I conducted a wedding last weekend in Scotland. It was a happy occasion (the weather wasn’t raining!) and the bridal party looked splendid (lovely dresses and kilts). The service wasn’t con-ducted at St Columba (the ELCE’s congregation in Scotland) but in the King’s College Chapel at the University of Aberdeen which is a lovely chapel – consecrated the year Henry VIII became king (1509) so there was a definite sense of place to the day as well. You had a sense of ‘If these walls could speak …’ as you gazed around and a brief thought as to previous weddings and other events those walls would have seen.
Normally the minister is the person ‘in charge’ of the church space for a wedding. Normally the place is his church – the location of the congregation. He knows where things are – what needs to happen – and from experience the best place for the photographer and how long it takes to sign the register. Wedding rehearsals are not for his benefit. Not so this wedding. The chapel is available for the university community and the bride is an alumna of UA so it happened that everyone who came for the wedding had to travel to Aberdeen – some further than others of course – the bride and groom having the least distance to travel – except George. He was the chapel’s verger – out of all of us, the person most familiar with the chapel and who lived closest – and he attended to all the ‘nuts and bolts’ of organising the wedding at the rehearsal and would turn to me for the details of the wedding rite (when I would do my part). There are little intricacies for a smooth wedding to do mainly with the beginning and the end of the service that go just right when everyone knows what’s supposed to happen. George had his checklist and we went through it all at the rehearsal. He even took the wedding schedule and the rings and orders of service and locked them in the safe! Very nice indeed. Less worry for me.
On the day of the wedding, we all arrived at our allotted times and went to our places ‘backstage’ as we waited for the bride. The groom and groomsmen looked very Scottish! I changed into my alb. And George, too, was ready in wonderful robes and large three cornered hat (I’m sure there’s a technical name for it – where’s Pastor Steve?!). In fact everyone came ‘dressed up’! It was a special occasion after all. After the service, George and I led the newly married couple from the chapel to the steps at the West door – posed for a formal photo – and then we departed as George said to me ‘Our jobs are done’. Indeed they were. And yet something was set in motion that was ongoing. It was a marriage solemnised in God’s presence – and the key thing was – all finery and things visible not withstanding – that the most important thing wasn’t seen at all – only heard and believed. This was God’s blessing given after the couple were declared to be husband and wife.
Like Jesus, quietly and in an unobtrusive way, turned water into wine at a wedding in Cana, so God continues to come in hidden ways – words, water, bread and wine – to people today and at the wedding, it was through words – performative – doing – words – that do what God says in peo-ple’s lives – and in marriage, increasing love and faithfulness and service to each other as hus-band and wife. And with that in mind, each marriage isn’t ‘done’ when the couple leaves the church. On the contrary, the journey has now just begun as God helps people who are married live together as husband and wife. God is almost each couple’s verger in their home. What a thought! — GS