Interesting piece in this week’s Time Out: atheist Tim Arthur talks about the privilege of being asked to be ‘celebrant’ of friends’ marriages. He has done so four times, and wonders if he’s asked because he is a theatre director and has a degree in religious studies: people think he’s like a vicar, and he can make stuff look good. For those interested in following his path, there is a ‘Rites of Passage Workshop’ at this year’s Workshop Festival in London from Sept 4 – 9th.
I’m all for this to be honest. Having seen so many people go through Christian rites when they clearly have no interest in the faith, I’m all for them celebrating and marking life’s big events in ways that reflect their beliefs. Sure, some vicars would claim that bringing people in to church at these times, regardless of their faith, is helpful in leading people in to it. But I’d argue that more commonly people see vicars and other ‘faith professionals’ as having too much of an agenda, and are scared off.
One nice story: Greg in Ventura was telling me how every church leader in town had refused to celebrate the wedding of the leader of the Hell’s Angels. Greg agreed, and this did turn into a fruitful relationship.
The article mentioned Arthur’s search for resources/liturgies online, but “generally I don’t find much useful, practical advice”. In light of this, I’d like to flag the Open Office project up again, which is simply an online liturgical resource exchange. Sign up to post stuff from your community; search for and read other people’s stuff free.
What the piece does suggest to me is that, again, the church simply can’t rest on past norms. People are in search of the sacred in ways that suit them, and if we want to be part of that journey, we need to get where people are at. Would you be prepared to be celebrant at a wedding where the friends asked you because they so respected you, but to ‘keep God out of it’? I think we ought to be.