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Out of the question

by
21 July 2009

Write, if you have any answers to the questions listed at the end of this section, or would like to add to the answers below.

Your answers

What should marriage preparation involve for couples who are living together?

Having been involved in training lay couples for marriage preparation work with engaged couples in our parish for many years, we have had to adapt the content of our sessions to meet the needs of the large majority of couples getting married nowadays, who have been living together beforehand. Some of them already have children either from this relationship or from a previous one.

We usually find that they have worked out issues such as their respective roles at home, managing money, and the implications of having or not having children, although this is not always the case.

Our main focus now is likely to be on why a couple has decided to get married at this particular time, and what changes they expect that marriage will make. They are likely to think that there will be very little change, but this leads to discussions about what their commitment to each other before God will mean, and what difference their marital status might have on their families and friends.

We then look at their respective family histories and relationships and consider the effects of changes that can put a strain on a marriage, whether external issues (e.g. loss of job, wider family problems, illness) or those within the relationship itself (e.g. poor communication, difficulty with managing conflict, different expectations of marriage).

As fewer marriages than ever take place in church nowadays, we feel it is our responsibility to minister to those who do seek God’s blessing on their marriage in as sensitive and relevant a way as possible.

Bridget Murray, Pinner, Middlesex

Some ancient manuscripts omit v.37 from Acts 8 — a mistake and then copied, perhaps? Since it must be counted the most significant verse of the story of Philip and the eunuch — and included in the Tyndale and King James Bibles — why the omission nowadays? Can, or should, any adult be baptised a Christian without the profession (made by the eunuch in some versions of the Bible) that he or she believes Jesus Christ to be the Son of God? [Answers, 3 July]

Justin Pinkess writes: “It is hard to see why anyone would have omitted it.” If the practice of baptising infants primarily when in danger of death was becoming well established, v. 37 would constitute an abiding question mark against it, and increasingly so, as the Church moved towards full-scale infant baptism.

Note also in v. 39 that the majority manuscripts that omit v. 37 also omit the reading that speaks of the Holy Spirit’s falling on the eunuch and the angel’s whisking Philip away — reflecting prejudice against eunuchs? V. 37 and the fuller reading of 39 have the hallmarks of being integral to the original vivid account of the whole incident.

(The Revd) David Perry, South Cave, East Yorks

The Revd Jonathan Clatworthy’s response puzzles me. Only the opening paragraph nearly answered the question, and the remaining paragraphs were just strange. I suggest that most Christians do believe that Jesus was both human and divine, without needing to suggest anything as crudely put as “the suggestion that God had sex with Mary”.

Clive de Salis (Reader), Birmingham

Your questions

In my 54-plus years as an Anglican, I have attended mass an estimated 5000-plus times. On St Peter’s Day, I attended a lunchtime celebration in a small cathedral city. The celebrant has a similar churchmanship to mine. This was the first time, how­ever, that I had encountered the full recitation of the Ten Command­ments. Even in the pre-Series 2 days, the Kyries were de rigueur in the establish­ments that I attended. I spoke to the celebrant. He thought that I was odd; I thought he was. What do your respondents think?

R. W. C.

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