In simple terms that was the sort of idea behind the essay that I wrote to complete my Foundation Degree in Christian Theology and Marriage – you may indeed have been part of the process if you read this blog regularly. It has already been circulated among one or two folk, at least one of whom has found it quite helpful.
Well, on Friday I heard I had passed the essay and with it my Foundation Degree, and yesterday I received it back, complete with attendant comments. I got a reasonable mark for it.
So, here, by way of celebration as I remove the ‘nearly trained’ from my blog, I humbly offer the world my thoughts on the theological themes that can be found in marriage and should therefore emerge in a course of marriage preparation.
If you’re looking for a summary of what is after all a 6000 word essay, here are the things that I felt were most significant to ministry whilst I was writing it (I’ll leave you to decide whether they come through in the essay or not):
- We (anyone with a ministry that touches couples who are wanting to get married) are preparing people to be ordinary heroes! Marriage is something for which many people are ill-equipped by way of existing relationship skills, and they are going to need help to make their marriage last a lifetime. Marriage is also a gift of God’s grace, both to the couple, and through them to others – whether that be to children, their wider family, or the lives they touch during their marriage.
- Marriage relationships should be places of incarnational love – they are also places of sacrament, covenant and forgiveness. They require constant acts of will, that create the trust, faithfulness, and honesty that make a marriage work.
- Of the marriage preparation material that I looked at, some focuses heavily on the relational skills, and makes it’s references to God and faith as broadly relevant as it can. Andrew Body’s ‘Growing Together’ material is of this nature.
- By getting married, couples have a chance to gain a better understanding of who God is. This can only be done if considerable time is taken with marriage preparation, and if that preparation makes reference to Biblical material, and uses real examples of marriages where the Christian faith plays an important role. Nicky and Sila Lees material (DVD, workbook and ‘The Marriage Book’) come in this category.
- Marriage preparation can not take a ‘one size fits all’ approach – specific pastoral needs will need to be addressed for some couples, whether it be due to bereavements, failed relationships or a myriad of other reasons.
- Weddings and marriages should not be allowed to take place in isolation from the communities of faith in which they occur. As part of their discipleship, Christian communities need to be encouraged to consider their support of both the weddings that take place in their midst, and the marriages of those who live in their community – because God is active through his grace in them all.
It all seems most appropriate on a day when my vicar has announced his wedding date, and a close friend her engagement!