A sky full of (high) lighters

She is Catholic and he is Baptist. They are in love, and want to be married.

In their young adult lives they haven't attended or worshipped regularly, because life is, you know, busy. The engagement exhaustion they feel is only made worse when they are told "no" by the priest and "no" by the pastor upon asking, "will you perform our wedding ceremony?" So, they keep looking. Sometimes they find a willing minister to help them comprehend the sacred space around their altar, but sometimes they don't, and then a friend with a freshly minted world-wide-web ordination, or a neighbor with a notary stamp performs their wedding. And maybe they are happy with that. Maybe.

He is Methodist and she is agnostic. She defines herself this way, but mostly she feels alienated by the church because when she was in middle school her parents got a divorce. It happens, and the church they attended made the whole family feel like pariahs. She has never forgotten that. So she is very skeptical of any clergy, me included.

Or they have just moved to a new city. Or they don't want to sign a doctrinal statement or fulfill a ceremonial rite just to be able to have a particular minister perform their ceremony. They have faith. They do. They believe. They do. And they have questions. And they wonder why those questions about religion should keep them from being married by a minister. They don't know if they can believe in a huge boat that carried two of every kind of animal upon it, or even if God listens to them when they pray. But when asked, they say, "yeah, we believe in God." It's in their bones as much as their love for one another, and they want their altar to feel sacred, not because of the credentials of the one doing the blessing and pronouncing, but because of what they are deciding to do "from this day forward."

But there is a catch. Because they feel so strongly about their decision to marry, they want a minister standing at the altar with them, one who has been there before, one who will help them draw sacred space around their union.

So they keep looking for a minister who will say, "yes."

But because they are looking from outside the church instead of from within, they keep hearing, "no."

I am a minister. And VOW is a business. I charge a fee and receive a payment for services rendered. But I am reminded that even though I don't work at a building with a steeple on top anymore, what I do is no less ministerial. Perhaps, maybe, it is even more so, because I get to meet people where they are independent of my theological locale. I hear their story without much pretense and accept that our journeys have not travelled the same path. And then, we move forward together.

And if they didn't have a minister before they walked into my office, they do when they leave.

I didn't know if I could make this work. I spend more time wondering what business owners do rather than the proverbial WWJD. I pay rent, and splurge on a piece of art for the office. I send invoices. I reschedule canceled appointments. I spend hours with clients in Marriage Planning. I drive to weddings and mail marriage licenses to probate court. I introduce Mr. and Mrs. to the world for the first time. I make phone calls. And some people never call me back. I guess thats "business."

And today I am grateful for dates on my calendar highlighted in yellow. Business, and ministry, is good, and it could always be better.

Just like marriage.

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South Carolina Wedding Officiant


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