So it was a week of ups and downs for me and my relationship with religion.
Some quick background: the Mister and I want to make the wedding ceremony more than traditional; we want it to be a worship service where we commit our lives to God. We’re cool with people who don’t want to do the same, but it’s part of who we are. One of the elements we want to include is communion.
Our religious rollercoaster week began on July 4th when our awesome friend/officiant said that we could have people of different denominations serve communion at our wedding. Unifying people of different traditions! I was beside myself with ecumenical enthusiasm. I invited as servers a few people I know will support us in our marriage, but who wouldn’t ordinarily be involved in the service. This included my kind-hearted boss and a trial judge I have known since I was a girl.
You know how they say that you should ask forgiveness, not permission? Well out of an abundance of caution, I thought I should check with another churchy friend to make sure our plan was acceptable. It wasn’t. Apparently, my church requires that ordained ministers, elders, and deacons serve communion.
It wasn’t just that I had to unask my boss and a judge – that was embarrassing. It was that I was disappointed that my church isn’t progressive enough to focus on similarities, rather than differences. I shot off what amounted to a “WWJD” email to the executive minister. His response was a kind description of church polity, but it never addressed my basic internal question: Wouldn’t Jesus think these rules are a bunch of hogwash? (Actually, when I ask myself this question in my mind, I use a cussword, but I’m self-editing here . . . .)
Cut to this past weekend, when the Mister and I attended a two-day marriage preparation retreat (good content, lots of unnecessary repetition, and some forced “thirty-second hugs,” which were somewhat mechanically prescribed as a marital panacea). Spending time in the church reminded me why I love it. It’s the church where I was baptized and confirmed, and my twin brother’s ashes are in the memorial garden. It’s like a member of my family, and when family members do things you don’t like (e.g., spending a zillion dollars on a new building addition or having stupid communion rules), you don’t just disconnect from them. You figure out how to move on together.
At the marriage workshop, between our thirty-second hugs, the Mister and I talked about the communion rules, and he was every bit as outraged as I had been when I first learned of them. But when he started criticizing the church, a funny thing happened. You know when you complain about your brother, it’s cool. But when your best friend agrees with you, you’re suddenly defensive? “Hey, man, that’s my brother you’re talkin’ about! Them’s fightin’ words!” Well, I got all in a huff and thought, “Hey man, that’s my church you’re talkin’ about. Cut it out.”
To make a long story long, I realized that we have to make some sacrifices to have our wedding at my church. If we want to have ecumenical communion, we’ll have to exchange vows elsewhere. But the fact of the matter is we want to be married in the church, just a few steps away from my brother’s memorial. So he’ll be there too. And that’s one of the reasons I’m willing to play by the rules.