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Please note that we are still soliciting opinions about hymns.

Hallo again to all.

Mawage. Mawage is wot bwings us togeder today.
Mawage, that bwessed awangment, that dweam wifin a dweam...
And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva... So tweasure your wuv.
- Said by The Impressive Clergyman in the film The Princess Bride

It is summer in this part of the Anglican world, a traditional time for marriage, with over 30% of weddings taking place in summer months. Marriage is a steadily growing business too, though we confess a bit of trepidation about couples spending upwards of £20,000. We all seem to be fascinated by weddings. Children often start planning their weddings long before considering possible life partners. Photographs from celebrity weddings grace the news stands, and hundreds of books, films, and television programs focus on the event. Over 500,000 gathered outside the palace as Prince William and Kate Middleton were married four years ago, as several hundred million, including ourselves, watched on the screen.

We have experienced religious weddings, secular weddings, traditional weddings, and some very untraditional weddings. We have been part of rather homogeneous weddings and some that marvelously blend a mixture of cultures. Two favourites were that of a Brooklyn Jewish woman and a Chinese man that culminated in a dramatic reading of the poem The Owl and the Pussycat, and another which also featured Jewish cultural additions to an otherwise standard Anglican wedding. But they all brought us and the couple together, promising to support the couple and their love for each other.

This has been a season of change for marriage. Civilly, the last few years have seen marriage become available in many countries for same-sex couples. In modernity beginning with the Netherlands in 2001, over twenty countries throughout Europe, North America, South America, Oceania, and Africa now either allow same-sex marriage or recognize marriage as being open to any two adults regardless of sex. Changes in who can get married are of course nothing new. Many cultures have frowned on miscegenation, with nations such as South Africa, the United States, China, Egypt, Israel, and France having had (or still having) anti-miscegenation laws. Many other cultures still frown on their members marrying outside their ethnic group.

Little of the above, however, relates to marriage in the context of the church—the sacrament of Holy Matrimony. Last week, as we are sure most of you have seen, at its triennial General Convention the US Episcopal Church changed their marriage canons to use gender neutral language, allowing for same sex marriage in churches. The Scottish Episcopal Church has started the process to make this change as well. Though proponents in those provinces explain that they have been 'doing the theology for over 40 years,' many others remain uncomfortable with this change in what has seemed a constant tradition and reading of scripture for at least the life of the Church of England.

Taken from the 1549 (nearly identical in the 1559) Book of Common Prayer, the marriage rite begins:

DEARELY beloved frendes, we are gathered together here in the syght of God, and in the face of his congregacion, to joyne together this man and this woman in holy matrimonie, which is an honorable estate instituted of God in paradise, in the time of mannes innocencie, signifying unto us the misticall union that is betwixte Christe and his Churche: whiche holy estate, Christe adorned and beutified with his presence, and first miracle that he wrought in Cana of Galile, and is commended of Sainct Paule to be honourable emong all men; and therefore is not to bee enterprised, nor taken in hande unadvisedlye, lightelye, or wantonly, to satisfie mens carnal lustes and appetites, like brute beastes that have no understanding: but reverentely, discretely, advisedly, soberly, and in the feare of God. Duely consideryng the causes for the whiche matrimonie was ordeined. One cause was the procreacion of children, to be brought up in the feare and nurture of the Lord, and prayse of God. Secondly it was ordeined for a remedie agaynst sinne, and to avoide fornicacion, that suche persones as bee maried, might live chastlie in matrimonie, and kepe themselves undefiled membres of Christes bodye. Thirdelye for the mutuall societie, helpe, and coumfort, that the one oughte to have of thother, both in prosperitie and adversitie. Into the whiche holy estate these two persones present: come nowe to be joyned. †

Mostly beautiful sentiments based in history, scripture, and poetry that truly set the tone for a couples future together rather than the lavish party on which popular culture seems to focus.

Archbishop Justin Welby has expressed deep concern that '[General Convention's] decision will cause distress for some and have ramifications for the Anglican Communion as a whole, as well as for its ecumenical and interfaith relationships.'*

We can scarcely imagine something as beautiful as the blessed arrangement of marriage causing distress and having ramifications for something as sturdy as the Anglican Communion. We've been through a lot, but much like a family in marriage, have pulled through, amidst our different cultures, expectations, national conflicts, and ethnic groups, and backgrounds. Through all of it, marriage, that blessed arrangement of true love continues to bring us together committed to each other as Christ was to his Church.

Have you attended any especially memorable, creative, or off-beat weddings? Do you have any unforgettable wedding memories? Tell us about them.

We will see you next week.

Our signature
All of us at Anglicans Online

6 July 2015

†The Forme of Solemnizacion of Matrimonie

* Archbishop of Canterbury's Response to the US Episcopal Church. 30 June 2015

For more on the film The Princess Bride, we recommend actor Cary Elwes' recent book As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride

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