Top ten ministry moments – #1: “Pastor Dad”

Finally, here’s the one you’ve been waiting for. My number one ministry moment, though, is actually a series of moments when being a dad intersected with being a pastor and I had the unique privilege of baptizing, confirming, marrying and ordaining my children. Continue reading

Your church wedding

I had two weddings this past weekend — one on Saturday, one on Sunday. For most pastors, weddings are not in the top ten list of things we like to do. Why?Well, let me count the ways.

My thoughts here are about those things a couple should expect when they come to the pastor and say, “We’d like to get married at the church.” (The following items are based on 24 years of experience in the parish, somewhere between 150 and 200 weddings, and a Lutheran bias when it come to worship and ministry.)

  • A wedding in the church is a worship service, including an invocation, scripture readings, a sermon, prayers and a benediction. We worship the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. While you may have always envisioned your wedding beginning with “Here comes the bride” (the Bridal Chorus) and ending with “There goes the bride” (i.e. the Wedding March), you can do so much better than that! There are so many powerful hymns you can choose from that truly honor the God before whom you will take your vows. Give them a chance.
  • We preach the word. We proclaim Christ crucified. When you pick your scriptures for the wedding, why not look beyond 1 Corinthians 13:4-7? Those overused verses about “love” weren’t written about marriage at all. The apostle Paul wrote them to a church divided about who had better teachers and abilities. Why not consider some passages important to you? Like a confirmation verse, or one that helped you grow in your faith. Let the pastor suggest some passages that speak to you and your relationship. You’ll get a much better message that way.
  • Just because it’s “your day” doesn’t mean you get to do anything you want. Remember, when  you step into the church, it’s really not about you, but about God. If you have some really unique (read “bizarre”) things you’d like to do for your wedding, don’t plan a church wedding. Have your ceremony on the beach, in your home, in a backyard or a museum.
  • I probably won’t attend your rehearsal dinner or reception. Why? Unless you are an active member of our congregation, I probably won’t know many people there and it’s not that much fun sitting off in the corner by yourself. Need a prayer before the meal. I’ll gladly write one for someone else to say.
  • Try to  show up on time for both the rehearsal and ceremony. Besides myself, many people have set aside some time to witness your vows and celebrate with you. Unexpected things always come up, but if you arrive a little early, it relieves some of the stress of that day.

In the early days of my ministry, I was honored when someone asked me to do their wedding. I soon grew to dread it when I learned I was basically just being hired to preform a service, along with the photographer and florist. In the past few years, however, I have begun to enjoy it again as I have worked with a number of young couples who had a marvelous faith and relationship with the Lord. I am grateful to them for helping me rediscover some of the joy of performing a wedding ceremony.

Today is our twenty-sixth anniversary

Twenty-six years ago today Lisa and I were married at Grace Lutheran Church in Columbus, IN by Pastor Tom Going. Even after all these years I vividly remember the events of that day.

It was hot — about 95 that day in southern Indiana. Since it was an evening wedding, we spent a lot of time outdoors earlier in the day, and many of us in the wedding party sported some nice sunburn for our pictures.

Eschewing the overused and overrated Bridal Chorus and Wedding March (Oh, it just irritates me to no end me when couples insist on these for their weddings, but that’s a topic for another day) we entered to the hymn “In Thee is Gladness” and left to “Crown Him with Many Crowns” with beautiful trumpet and organ accompaniment. I still can’t sing either of those hymns straight through without getting choked up. The service included many musical selections sung by my brother-in-law Jeff and a wonderful trio of sisters from the congregation. The church was full that day — I seem to remember hearing that about 300 people came, but that report may be greatly exaggerated. I don’t know if it was the crowd of the moment, but Lisa literally shook the whole time. Good thing she had someone to hold on to!

We had our reception at the Otter Creek Country Club. That event was a whirlwind of activity as we were whipped from photo op to photo op, briefly pausing  for each moment. We danced to a nice jazz combo’s rendition of “Unforgettable,” and drove off in Lisa’s parents’ rice-filled car.

I’m so thankful for the many memories of that day, for Lisa’s love and commitment to us, and for the many ways that God has blessed us over the past 26 years.

Dolphins

Not the Miami football team.  The full time residents of Marineland.  I did a wedding there this past Saturday.  WIth a stunning view of 5-6 foot waves in the background, I stood at the edge of the main dophin tank as Jake and Kali took their vows with about 60 people and 14 dolphins as witnesses.  After the service, trainers were on hand to have pairs of dolphins leap out of the water as a backdrop for pictures of the newly married couple.  Impressive.

I’m glad it had rained the night before.  With the Washington Oaks rose garden too soggy for the wedding, they moved it to Marineland.  Excellent call.

Before the ceremony began, I got to talk with some of the trainers there.  Most had worked there two years or less, but loved the job and living in Florida.  Long hours though:  6 am to 8 pm.  After only a few months, they knew all the dophins by name.  The staff was just as good with me and the other people gathered there as they were with the dolphins.

The bride and her bridesmaids were all varsity volleyball players from Coastal Carolina University.  Yes, they were tall, at least taller than all the groomsmen.  (But not taller than the groom.)

I rate this wedding very close to the Bahamas experience three years ago.