Presbyterians are not renowned for their self-confidence. It’s fair to say the default position is much more self-deprecatory which can, at times, come across as lifeless and dull.
Yet we’re not quite as miserable and mediocre as we present – at least, not all the time. I recently conducted a marriage service for a couple in the church where I minister; a few weeks later, I received this note from them:
We’d like to take a moment to thank you for the special part you played in our wedding day.
You ensured that everything we wanted to say was said, and you made the ceremony very much about us, both individually and as a couple, as we start our journey together.
We received so many compliments regarding the way in which you conducted the service, and especially that you made us both feel at ease during the ceremony.
From when we met you, many months ago, we knew we’d found the person to conduct our marriage. Your calm nature, humour and solemnity all culminated in a memorable service, enjoyed by all. Thank you for the time and energy you put into our special day.
It’s not often that someone puts into such a helpfully sharp focus what I’m trying to achieve in ministry . When I think about it, and I do quite a bit, this is exactly what I’m about. I’m trying to craft and lead worship services which properly attend to the specific characteristics of particular people: that, after all, is what it seems to me a God of love does all the time.
Why should church be off-putting, stuffy and fear-ridden? It can as readily be a place of comfort, clarity and companionship, particularly at such a significant and joyful time as marriage. For the most part, that is how I regard the ministry of Jesus who not only took people as he found them but attended closely to their needs and desires, their fears and hopes and faith.
Worship can be calm, reverent and humorous all as part of a movement of corporate praise, reflection, prayer and adoration. Perhaps it’s by becoming – and then being – a place which is supportive, comforting and at ease that church is one of the best settings for making those most important declarations in the presence of God, family and friends. Context may add to significance and meaning.
And it was, apparently, enjoyable! Well, I had a ball, too – and was reminded (both as I stood beside a couple holding one another’s hands and each other’s lives in their hearts as they made their vows) and as I received their letter, of the huge privilege of ministry.
If the chief end of humankind is to glorify God and enjoy God for ever, then being involved in leading an enjoyable worship service which is the starting-place for a lifelong mutual commitment in marriage is undoubtedly a privilege of ministry.
To the happy couple: thank you for writing!