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Devon bishop working on project to promote marriage in church

06 August 2021

St Andrew’s Colebrooke

A wedding at St Andrew’s, Colebrooke, in Devon

A wedding at St Andrew’s, Colebrooke, in Devon

A CHURCH wedding can satisfy the “basic human longing” to be blessed, the Bishop of Crediton, the Rt Revd Jackie Searle, suggested last week.

Bishop Searle is leading a team working on the Devon Church Weddings project, due to be launched later this year with a remit to “encourage more couples to get married in a church and showcase some of the beautiful churches across Devon”.

In a personal reflection, the Bishop recalls her time as the incumbent of St Peter’s, Littleover, in Derby, where she married “well over 100 couples”. She writes: “There is a beautiful moment in the service that always moves me, after the bride and groom have exchanged their vows and made their promises, where the vicar takes their hands and wraps them in the priestly stole and declares that they are husband and wife.

“It symbolises that their great love for each other, all that has just been promised and declared, is held in the even greater love of God.

“A wedding in church gives this holy and spiritual dimension. It’s there from the declaration of God’s love at the beginning, through the particular words of the service, and in the prayers and blessings. The gift of love from above is celebrated with thanksgiving and gratitude.”

A church is “more than a building”, she writes. “It is a community. A community that will welcome, love, pray and care. . . In the sealing of your relationship with each other, you are from then on related to this church — your names in the register, a sense of belonging, the church welcoming you today and always there for you in the future.

“The blessing element of a wedding is also really important. I sometimes think this is a basic human longing — to be blessed, to know ourselves loved and blessed by God.

“Blessing does not mean ‘everything will go smoothly’, ‘nothing bad will ever happen’. But blessing, Christian blessing, is a deep faith that God is with us and wants good for us.”

The latest ONS data report that 22 per cent of all marriages in England and Wales in 2017 were religious ceremonies, the lowest percentage on record, down from 48 per cent two decades earlier (News, 12 April 2019).

Around the dioceses, many churches have been opening their doors for marriage ceremonies for the first time since the pandemic struck. The Team Vicar of Sidmouth, in the diocese of Exeter, the Revd Matthew Selman, told the Sidmouth Herald this week that the marriage of Charli Ferrand Higgins and Ross Higgins had “given everyone involved a huge lift. It was a privilege and delight to offer God’s blessing to this wonderful couple, and we feel very blessed by the new connection we have made with them.”

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