I am back from vacation and here to offer a few thoughts – thank you for reading!
I have missed writing this for a couple of weeks now. Peggy and I were gone on vacation, visiting children, celebrating the wedding of Peggy’s youngest daughter, and spending some time alone together. It was a good time. We immensely enjoyed the wedding, its pre-service party the night before, the three tiered reception the day of, and the post-reception party after. The pre and post parties celebrated what it is we do as a community – mark the milestones of life.
It is what we do. It is what communities do. It is what religious institutions do and it is what communities of faith that are non-doctrinal do, we come together to mark the milestones of life.
Institutionalized religious organizations have ritualized life in many ways and as they have, they have largely caused many events to become routine practices that leave out the beauty and, in many cases, to one degree or another; they begin to leave out the sacredness as events become routine.
I don’t mean to suggest that marriage becomes routine, not for individuals anyway, but it has, in many ways, become routine for the institutionalized religious structure. So much so that in many churches there is a sense that the marriage ceremony itself is “owned by” the institution. The institution, in many cases, becomes the one who can say who ought to enter into the sacred covenant and who cannot. The institution and not the individuals have set the parameters and guidelines and thus become the authority over the rites, when marriage is really, in the words of the Massachusetts Supreme Court, “at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects. Because it fulfills yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.”
As a faith community we celebrate the sacredness or the sanctity of that act but it cannot become up to the institution to claim authority over it as it must always remain up to the individuals. When two people choose to commit their lives to one another together it is in itself sacred and we can gather rightly so and celebrate that with them. But we ought never to begin to say who can express their love and commitment to one another.
Here at Hope Church we are a community of faithful people striving always to recognize and value the individual journey and the community support that empowers the individual. We accept and affirm all people and we live grateful for the opportunity to celebrate together the journey of the One whose teachings we principally follow.