08 October 2009

Wedding Style with Substance

Note: Chapel not affiliated with Father Hollywood

I had a visit today from a couple younger ladies who were drawn to the traditional architecture of my congregation's sanctuary. Not for worship, mind you, but as a place to have a wedding.

They were scoping out a place for their friend to get married. They are all members at a local Pentecostal mega-church. They were hoping to have the wedding in our sanctuary because they like the "traditional look." They explained that their church "just looks like an auditorium," and they wanted to procure a "more traditional church" for the wedding.

This is not the first such inquiry I've had. On one recent occasion, I got a call from a Roman Catholic lady (whose husband-to-be was a Lutheran, ELCA as it turns out) who even offered to "convert to the Lutheran religion if necessary" in exchange for the use of our sanctuary.

This whole issue is an interesting commentary on many levels.

On the one hand, I find it encouraging that deep within the recesses of modern (postmodern?) young people is a buried appreciation for tradition, a desire to bond with ages past, a still-present sense of catholic continuity - at least in matters of importance. On the other hand, it is distressing that the church sanctuary is basically seen as a prop, a stage set for photo-ops, a backdrop for that perfect fantasy ceremony. Rather than see the Holy Church as an integral element of marriage being woven into the very fabric of life itself, instead the church building is seen as a useful place for a wedding ceremony for the sake of pretty pictures that will be largely ignored a year down the road.

And there is a divorce as well. Instead of seeing marriage as something to be celebrated by one's own pastor, in one's own congregation, under the auspices of one's own denomination, such a view of marriage divorces Holy Matrimony from all of the above for the sake of appearances. Rejecting one's own pastor, congregation, and creed for something "prettier" is no different than growing bored with one's own spouse and seeking someone "prettier" later on. Even as marital fidelity is on the down curve, so is fidelity to one's faith.

We live in a culture that not only rejects commitment, but doesn't even seem to know what it is.

It is also illustrative that a wedding is given much more importance than Sunday worship. Church services are just something we do on Sunday, and so we might as well have fun doing it. In that context, a rock band, drum kit, big screen, speakers, a casually-dressed and dynamic inspirational speaker, and an auditorium with a stage and lectern are good enough. But a wedding is a really big deal, with flowers, dresses, photographers, an altar, a pastor, stained glass, paraments, ritual, and a hopefully Disney-like production of music and pageantry in the form of a matrimonial liturgy.

But what's missing in this cultural lack of commitment and the sacrifice of substance to style is the One who has been sacrificed, who is of "one substance" with the Father, the One who has committed to be with His Bride unto eternity.

--- Rev. Larry Beane


Chad Myers said...

One thought I had in the back of my mind while reading your post was a lament of the loss of sacredness in our sacred spaces (not yours, but many others).

In this age of mega churches that look more like baseball stadiums (and in one case, they ARE former baseball stadiums -- Houston), sacredness and the worship in the form of architecture that all points, honors, and glorifies the Master Architect.

I do not find it at all coincidental that this couple wished to be married in a sacred place vs. a stadium. People know deep down what sacredness and proper reverence is.

Too bad they can't seem to put two and two together and realize that not only is that auditorium church not sacred in architecture, it's also lacking sacredness in toto.

Anonymous said...

I had the same experience 15 years ago in Lawrence, Kansas, when a couple admitted their wanna-be mega church which met in a theater "just doesn't feel like a church" -- for their wedding, that is. It's just fine for worship every Sunday! Of course, they were very generously offering to pay "rent" -- I believe they suggested $50, which they thought was really generous.

In addition to my more pastoral thoughts was one more pragmatic: The members of my church invest a huge amount of resources, time, etc. to provide this Sanctuary. And then we should "rent" it for a few bucks? The actual cost of providing it is probably hundreds of dollars per hour. What you're really asking for is my members to subsidize your wanna-be mega church -- ironically whose pastor had scorned scorned liturgical worship and all things traditional in a newspaper article when their church was launched! -- by providing a "traditional" chapel that you don't have to pay for.

I didn't say it that way, but what I started telling people is: Your wedding day is of course one of the most important, most memorable days of your life. So I'm sure that if you want that very special event in your lives to take place in a Lutheran Church it's because you must have some deep, emotional attachment to the Lutheran Church.

At that point they usually look rather sheepish. Although one woman said bluntly: I don't care anything about the Lutheran Church. It's just because you're close to all the best restaurants!

IggyAntiochus said...

Ahh, weddings... As a parish musician I stopped playing them years ago!

This rent-a-church couple will be back to baptize their infants (the mega-church doesn't do that), possibly confirm their kids (who might never attend again) and when one of them passes away, the kids might ask for a funeral because this is their "family" church.

I like Rev. Vogts comments about telling the couple, "I am sure that ... it's because you must have some deep, emotional attachment to the Lutheran Church."