Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Wedding preparations

Rehearsal tonight for my last wedding booked for this year - and it promises to unusual, as the groom, is of a Hindu family, born and bred here, but with ancient family roots in the Punjab, and more recently East Africa. The bride-to-be is a farmer's daughter from the coastal plain to the East of Cardiff.

Lots of people came to observe, practice, give advice, or ask questions. It was a bit chaotic and quite hard holding it all together, full of good humour and excitment. I hope they remember what they need to for the ceremony.

Certainly they've worked very hard on making their wedding ceremony reflect the marriage of two people from different religious and cultural backgrounds. They've created an impressive wedding booklet with explanations of the different traditions and customs involved, to guide people through both the church service and the Hindu marriage blessing which will follow the reception at midnight.

Best of all from my point of view is that his family have invited a Swami to come over from India - a family friend and guru - for this blessing, and he will be present for the service in church as well. It's not so unusual for me to share the wedding platform with another Christian cleric, of my own or a different denomination, but it will be a first time for me to do so with a minister of another faith!

Forty one years ago, newly wed myself, I attended two college friends' wedding, in Bristol University's Catholic Chaplaincy. He an Anglican, she a Catholic. Such thing was quite unusual in those days, an ecumenical innovation, in the light of Vatican II, recently finished. Both were devout. The Chaplain offered a Nuptial Mass as part of the service, but neither of them received Communion, because at that time the new pastoral directions offering such a concession were not in place. And she wouldn't communicate without him also being able to communicate. But they both wanted a Mass to take place, and this was the compromise that was acceptable.

Here we are a couple of generations on from there. 'Ecumenical' now comes naturally, unless hard-line fundamentalist Christians are around. Nowaways, interfaith is becoming less of a novelty, but for the most part inter-faith marriages made are celebrated in a secular context. So this particular occasion is unusual, and something of an innovation. I never did anything like this in seven years of ministering in multi-faith, multi-cultural St Paul's Bristol.

Neither of the couple would consider themselves to be regular worshippers in either tradition. They value religious custom and tradition, but they have their own take on spiritual heritage and making their vows in religious ceremonies is of utmost importance to them. It's not Communion they renounce faced with an inflexible authoritarian institution, like my friends did, but the demand religious communities and institutions make of constant commitment.

I wonder what it will be like for this young couple when it comes to raising children to share their different cultures and values? What kind of community will they make, or want to belong to?

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