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A BEACON OF LIGHT
A view from the Lantern – Canon Clare MacLaren
Wedding photograph courtesy of Andy Turner Photography
This article, written by The Revd Canon Clare MacLaren, Canon for Music and Liturgy, is published in the May 2022 edition of Link, the monthly newspaper for the Diocese of Newcastle…
After so many joyful celebrations have had to be postponed because of Covid, it seems that folk have got a bit of catching up to do! Baptism applications are coming in thick and fast – and here at Newcastle Cathedral, the season of “all things weddingy” has been well underway with our exhibition, A Century of Wedding Gowns, proving extremely popular through February and March. By Mothering Sunday, when the exhibition was finally packed away, it was quite a change not to be surrounded by slightly ghostly white frocks every time we walked into the building!
If the presence of the wedding dresses will soon be history, one event that took place during the exhibition will certainly not soon be forgotten, however – and that is the Service of Celebration of Marriage which we held on the afternoon of Saturday 19 March. This was the first time we’d offered such a service. Ripon Cathedral holds one annually, and it is very well attended. Without a long run-in to the event, however, we had no idea how the idea might ‘take’ here in Newcastle. In the end, eleven wonderful couples came along – whose marriages ranged from 5 to 50 years in length!
The Service of Celebration of Marriage gives people an opportunity to renew their marriage vows – perhaps in celebration of a particular anniversary, or because they want to mark the passing of a particularly challenging time in their relationship – or simply for the love of it. It was a simple service, held in the intimate and beautiful Cathedral Quire, and some couples chose to book in for a posh afternoon tea at Café 16 in the Cathedral’s refectory to continue the celebrations there afterwards.
The couples who wished to do so walked in, in procession, to the strains of Jeremiah Clarke’s ‘Trumpet Voluntary’, played on the Cathedral organ, and took their seats. Some had come alone – others had brought family members with them. Amidst joyful wedding hymns, and readings suitable to the occasion, there was laughter and, it has to be said, a few tears as well. We remembered how God had blessed their relationships on their wedding day – and gave thanks for the many ways in which God has upheld them ever since. The time when the couples renewed their vows to one another was deeply moving… We who were leading the service actually felt we had to keep our eyes averted so as not to intrude on such a private and heart-felt moment!
Most clergy take a lot of weddings over the years… Of course, these are moving too. Wedding couples have their whole lives ahead of them, and who knows what the future will hold? The vows they make to one another, they will keep, on the whole, as best they can – but they have no idea on that “big day” what life will throw at them. What was especially powerful about the Celebration of Marriage Service, however, was to have the privilege of sharing with these eleven couples, not the detail, of course – but the sense that each of these relationships had stood the test of time… had weathered storms, and would weather them still. From the “sapling” of their early love for one another, had matured a strong and resilient tree, which had now spread out its branches to give shelter to others – friends, family and wider community – all around. A metaphor for the “kingdom of God” if ever we heard one!
Such was the success of this occasion, that we have already set a date for the next one in 2023! So, if you have a big anniversary coming up – or even a small one! Or if you think that renewing your vows would be a helpful or timely thing to do… Why not pop the date in your diary? Saturday 3 June, 2023 at 2pm.
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