Welcome to Church

The Church of England has recently published a guide to the “Top Ten Facts About Christenings“. It is a starter for ten for people making enquiries about their local church and “getting little Timmy ‘done'”.It seems to have picked the same scab that The Weddings Project picked for a lot of vicars….. it educates people about their rights (something vicars don’t like to admit people have) and their responsibilities (something many vicars insist people should be born with pre installed like iOS6).

I am not a cradle Anglican. I may have mentioned this once or twice. I wasn’t even a churchgoer. I grew up with the belief that The Church TM didn’t have anything to do with ‘people like me’. In all honesty, the church treated me like a pariah when I was a teenager with a Helloween patch on the back of my denim jacket – I managed to attend for 5 weeks. When I arrived at university this is what I told Ruth: The church does not want people like me in it. The David Mitchell portrayal of the Evil Vicar isn’t just a cultural stereotype, it is often the real lived experience of a first time enquirer.

“Hello, are you the vicar? I am just ringing to ask about booking a venue…..”

There are two responses to this phone call:

a) [a brusk] It isn’t as simple as that! You are not simply booking a venue…
b) Congratulations. That’s great. Let’s have a chat about how we can help you celebrate the gift of a new child/celebrate the love you have for each other as you come together in holy matrimony…

I have sat in a room and watched both of these happen. I know which one I picked up as good practice.

The Church TM is a daunting experience for those of us you refer to as ‘unbelievers’. Walking through that door for the first time is a real challenge. If your first instinct is to trip someone up on their way in for the first time you will probably never see them again and neither will anyone else.

There is a massive theological issue at stake here. Jesus is the incarnate God who had a table ministry. He welcomed everyone in. Regardless of their religious literacy. Regardless of their knowledge of canon law or the parish system. Regardless of whether they had the language to ask for a service rather than a booking.

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“I didn’t realise we could get married in church vicar”. Happy to help.
“Can we have Timmy done?” Why don’t you meet me and the church wardens on Sunday and we’ll help you along the way?
“Will I be able to bring my son with me, he’s got Asperger’s so he may not be the most well behaved.” That’s fine, everyone is welcome here. If we can cope with a noisy vicar like me I’m sure we can cope with a little noise. After all, some famous guy said ‘let the little children come to me’.

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Weddings

David Mitchell shares his thoughts on the changing face of modern weddings.  The Church of England was accused in The Telegraph of ‘pouring misery’ upon the happy couple, profiteering and forcing the cost of a wedding up to an average of £20,000 (£321.50 is the basic fee for a wedding in the Church of England with no extras like bell ringers).  It is amazing how small the ‘wedding part’ of a ‘wedding’ actually is, both financially and as part of the proceedings.

It is interesting to see what someone who sits in the pews or the comfy chairs at a hotel thinks is actually going on with these increasingly extravagant events.

Married Because I Mean It

I recently blogged about fresh expressions of wedding.  I was just sent a link to an article about a “rebranding exercise” campaign for SHE Magazine.  If I’m honest, I’ve never heard of SHE Magazine but I was intrigued by what they said about marriage as an act of nonconformity.

If the current perception is that marriage is the ultimate act of conformity, the new campaign aims to shows that actually, today, marriage can be the ultimate act of rebellion and non-conformity. The work plays on the fact that getting married is actually intensely independent; the moment when a couple recognises and welcomes the fact that they only need each other and no one else. Marriage isn’t safe and schmaltzy; it’s defiant and brave.

The key image features a black and white image of a female’s left hand sticking a finger up, as if swearing. On a closer look, it is actually the wedding finger – complete with a gold wedding ring – rather than the third finger, that’s being held up. The end line reads, simply: “Married. Because I mean it.” A range of 6 sheets and 48 sheet executions have been developed, with headlines including: “Don’t want to commit? I do.” and “Don’t want the world to know? I do.”

Well it certainly is provocative.