More than 60 couples stood together in the pews of one Devon church to renew their vows and listen to a wedding sermon. There were decorations and bucks fizz at each of the two unique services on Sunday 1st May in St Andrews Church, Cullompton.
Local married couples, some married for a long time, took part in the service after receiving a wedding invitation with a difference at a street party, organised by St Andrews and the council. The invite offered them chance to re-live their big day and renew their vows the very weekend Prince William and Kate Middleton tied the knot. Crowds of locals flocked to the church during the street party.
The wedding renewal service was very special for one couple Rita and Steve Radford, from Cullompton, pictured, who celebrated 22 years of marriage on the very day the Royal couple got married. “We married in a register office,” said Rita. ”So as committed Christians it was really lovely to be able to renew our vows in a church before God. My faith is important and this meant a great deal.” The couple’s son and family came to watch the ceremony.
Inspired by the romantic feel of the weekend and the church building, one man even went down on bended knee during the service and proposed to his girlfriend in front of the cheering congregation. The new bride-to-be said: “It was amazing. It was really nice Ricky proposed in church. This is the first service we’ve been to at this church.”
Members of the church handed out invitations to the services during the Royal Wedding street party held in streets around the church on Friday 29th at 3pm. This was jointly organised by St Andrew’s and the town council.
Royal Wedding fever gripped the nation last weekend and street parties and celebrations were in full swing. Speculations about weather, invites, vows, transport and the dress were finally confirmed and bunting was sold out.
Whatever level of passion or indifference we had for following the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, their nuptials created debate on weddings, the Church and the meaning of marriage and fidelity. With so many thoughts across the country focused on this occasion, it certainly was a chance for the Church to engage with public consciousness.
Churches across the country embraced this calendar opportunity to celebrate marriage, build local community and engage in relevant outreach to friends and neighbours.
Rev Edward Hobbs of St Andrew’s said: “What better time to think about the significance of our own marriages than when thoughts are on the Royal Wedding and subsequently relationships and faithfulness.
“Whilst we celebrated this happy occasion as a nation, we thought it appropriate to honour and celebrate married couples in our community too. We really were able to be at the heart of the community and build connections with our friends and neighbours, sharing the love of God with them. It was lovely to be able to welcome a number of couples who have not visited us before, to celebrate this special weekend.”
Roy Crowne, Executive Director of HOPE said: “This is exactly the kind of missional thinking that we need. Strong marriages and relationships are important. By being present, engaging with our neighbours and joining with the celebrations of the Royal Wedding, it was a way for many to build community and demonstrate that God is faithful and desires a relationship with us too. It is vital that we join together in our communities to point to Jesus in a relevant and understandable way at every opportunity.
Hundreds of churches held a Royal Wedding screening in their building, many encouraging wedding attire and some holding champagne receptions or tea and cake. There were wedding festivals that lasted all weekend, fancy dress parties, games afternoons or unique community-created bunting.