A good while back, well actually it was in the last century, I was the pastor of First Church of the Charming Community. (That’s not the real name of the church. It was a “First” church, but the community wasn’t named “charming,” the people there just thought they were. It was a nice church. I enjoyed my service there. The church had a wide range of ages, somewhat evenly divided among young adults, middle agers and seniors.
I don’t remember what could possibly have possessed me to do it. Maybe I was just feeling romantic myself. Maybe I thought it would spark up things in the congregation. Maybe I thought the folks occupying the pews had grown a little staid in their lives, taking each other for granted. I’m even open to the idea I was bored and wanted to do something a little different.
Whatever the reason was. I never tried to do it again. Here’s the rest of the story.
That particular year Valentine’s Day fell on Sunday. You’re familiar with Valentine’s Day, are you not? It’s the time to express your love. It’s a day to share a token of that love in the form of flowers, candy, and fancy cards.
Way back there, when I was a kid, Valentine’s Day was a day of love unproclaimed but quietly suggested affection. Oh, how I agonized over the just right card to give Katie Gudger, the prettiest girl in my fourth grade class. How I watched from the corner of my eye as she opened her cards, and how I convinced myself that she smiled when she saw the one from me. And then, in high school, there was the Valentine Dance. I asked Susan Smith. She said, “Yes.” I picked her up at her house and she was in that formal gown. My heart went giddie-up.
Valentine’s Day stirred memories. Now with it falling on Sunday and with me the pastor of First Church of the Charming Community, I thought a perfect moment had arrived. We decided (well in truth I decided and some others went along) to have a Renewal of Marriage Vows on Sunday evening of Valentine’s Day.
Plans were made for a reception following the ceremony. We decorated the fellowship hall appropriately. The women’s group made some refreshments. Invitations were even mailed out to the married members of the church. Proper planning was made so that immediately after the morning worship the sanctuary could quickly be made appropriate for a wedding, with all those fancy candle holders and all. It was going to be a wonderful event.
Now, Fred Cramer was one of the most likable members of the church. He always had a smile. He and his wife, Veronica, were at every church event, pitching in to help. Fred and Veronica were well-liked by everyone. They were a picture perfect Valentine’s Day couple. That’s why I decided to do the final promo for the vow renewal ceremony.
At the morning worship, when the announcements were being made, I thought of a, I thought, clever way to make the final invitation for folks to come. “Fred,” I said, “would you and Veronica stand?” They did. “Now, Fred, would you take Veronica’s hand as ask her if she’d like to renew your wedding vows.”
Fred replied, “They’ll be serving ice cream in hell before I do that.”
It was the last time I had one of those services.