The two authors of this book, Linda Grenz and Del Glover, say at the outset that they are ordinary Christians writing for ordinary Christians and ordinary congregations. So why has this book become a classic for couples about to marry, couples already married, and the congregations that support them? Because they approach the ordinary issues couples face in marriage from the life-experience perspectives of an Episcopal priest (Linda) and a former corporate executive (Del) who worked with people as they faced various family-related issues.
They invite readers to use the book in ways that speak most directly to them and offer questions for the couple to discuss and others that engage a congregation. The book is interspersed with relevant quotes from scripture with probing questions for the individual to consider.
Table of Contents
The Sacrament of Marriage
Being with Others
The Gift of Children
Yes, No, Maybe, Why Bother (Marriage Preparation, Marriage Enrichment)
The Journey Ahead
|Publisher:||Church Publishing, Incorporated|
|Edition description:||New Edition|
|Product dimensions:||7.00(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.40(d)|
Read an Excerpt
The Marriage Journey
Preparations and Provisions for Life Together
By Linda L. Grenz, Delbert C. Glover
Church Publishing IncorporatedCopyright © 2003 Linda L. Grenz and Delbert C. Glover
All rights reserved.
The Sacrament of Marriage
It signifies to us the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church and Holy Scripture commends it to be honored among all people. (BCP 423)
Christian marriage is a sacrament involving the whole Christian community. Christianity is a communal religion; we become Christians through baptism into the body of Christ, the church. In the church, marriage is called a symbol of the relationship of Christ to the church because of the enduring nature of Christ's love for us. The celebration and blessing of a marriage is an opportunity for the couple and the congregation to experience the joy of the promise of Christ's love for us. It provides an opportunity for the entire congregation to witness the exchange of vows and, as in the sacrament of baptism, it is an opportunity for those who are already married to renew their own marriage vows. For those not married, it is a reminder of the responsibility each of us has to support all those in our community who are married.
Of the sacraments of the church only one, matrimony, is specifically designed for two people. The other sacraments are generally received by an individual or, in the Eucharist, by an entire community. Only matrimony is administered for the benefit of two people and only in matrimony are two "recipients" required for the sacrament to be complete. Immediately we see something of the special nature of matrimony; it is meant to be shared by two people, but their sharing of matrimony becomes a symbol to us all of "Christ's union with his Church." That symbol is challenged when marriages fail at the current rate of almost fifty percent, with a significant cost to the individuals involved, to family life, and to society. This breakdown in marriages compels the church to reassess and reassert the role it plays in preparing the faithful for marriage and in supporting them in marriage.
In this context, the role of the congregation and the broader Christian community in the marriage relationship takes an entirely different meaning. The Christian community's support for the marriage must begin before the ceremony; it is expressed during the ceremony; and it continues after the service.
Before the Ceremony
It is important that congregations help those embarking on the marriage journey to prepare themselves for it, if the couple will accept and value this help. Couples considering marriage who have approached their clergyperson to perform the ceremony have already taken the first step in inviting the church to support their marriage. While they may have come to the clergyperson for very practical and not theological reasons (they need a minister and a church building), the opportunity is nevertheless presented. The challenge to the church community is to receive the couple, remembering the Christian symbolism their marriage embodies.
When a couple makes a request to be married in the church, they can be invited to participate in a preparation process that involves them, the clergyperson who will officiate at the wedding, and members of the congregation. Church members who are serving as marriage mentors can lead groups or work with individual couples to help them prepare for their marriage and to support them in it.
This process assumes that both members of the couple are part of the congregation and that they are available for this preparation process before the wedding. Couples who work or are separated from each other or the congregation by distance may find participation in an ongoing process in the congregation difficult. We hope that congregations that have established a thorough preparation process as the norm will encourage couples to do this work in some other way.
There are many ways a congregation can support couples as they prepare for marriage. Often weddings happen privately and apart from the congregation. But many congregations include prayers for the couple in the intercessions at Sunday services several weeks before and immediately after the wedding. Some congregations include an invitation to the wedding in their Sunday bulletin and briefly describe the couples' post-wedding plans (will move here, go to school there, work in another town). These efforts help the congregation and couple connect with each other and build a support system that can help in the days ahead.
During the Ceremony
Beyond sharing in the preparation process, the Christian community is called to share in the ceremony itself. The wedding service is a public worship service and is open to all members of the congregation (the reception may be private). Attending the wedding of a couple in your congregation, even if you do not know them well, is one way to express support for that couple and their marriage. It also reminds us and them that we are accountable to each other and are called to support each other in good times and bad. During the ceremony we affirm that "we will" support the couple in their marriage when we are asked: "Will all of you witnessing these promises do all in your power to uphold these two persons in their marriage?" (BCP 425). That affirmation is an important commitment for the days ahead.
After the Wedding
When we marry, we make our vows before God and the Christian community. We are accountable to God and to that community for keeping those vows. Our relationship and our actions have an impact that goes beyond just the two of us, even beyond our circle of family and friends. Our marriage has an impact on those who live in faithful community with us as Christians. The Christian community has a responsibility to care for those already married as much as it has for those seeking the church's blessing on their marriage.
Many congregations provide marital counseling in times of trouble but few provide ongoing support for those encountering all the normal ups and downs of marriage. Often the most helpful thing they can do is to provide opportunities for people to explore and discuss issues, listen to each other, and support each other in love and prayer.
Civil and Sacramental Marriage
When we "get married" in a church ceremony, two things happen simultaneously. One is that we are married under civil law. A civil (nonreligious) marriage is conducted by a justice of the peace. It is a legal partnership. Each state or province defines the terms of that partnership differently, but there is an underlying legal agreement into which the partners enter. That agreement specifies how their partnership will work. The most important aspects of that partnership govern property ownership and responsibility for each other and any children the couple may birth or adopt.
A clergyperson in the United States or Canada functions as a justice of the peace at a church wedding, thereby witnessing the formation of the legal partnership for the state or province. Simultaneously, the clergyperson and members of the congregation witness the exchange of the couple's vows to each other before God and participate in the sacramental rite (service or ceremony). In the Christian marriage service, the primary ministers of the wedding are the couple themselves—they give and receive the vows; the clergy and congregation are witnesses. Then together the entire community prays that God will help them fulfil the vows they have made. The clergyperson, as the person designated by the community to speak for them, leads the prayer that asks for and declares God's blessing on the couple. What makes Christian marriage unique, then, is that:
* a lifelong partnership is formed before God and the Christian community;
* God's blessing is sought and declared; and
* the marriage is an act that both proclaims and creates Christ's love in our love.
Another way to describe Christian marriage is that the couple's union makes visible God's grace and love for them and their love for each other while it also gives them the gift of God's grace and love. Their union is a sign of "the mystery of the union between Christ and his Church" to them and to the Christian community.
Marriage as a Sacrament
We have spoken of the marriage service as a sacrament. This implies that "the marriage" and "the sacrament" occur at some particular moment. This is simultaneously true and not true. We have also described marriage as a journey. It begins somewhere in the early stages of a relationship when a couple senses that their relationship is more than just friendship. At some point, the couple begins to talk about their relationship and how "right" it feels when they are together; they become aware of a dimension that is greater than the two of them. Usually they call that "love." They also may be aware of that love as a mystery—something intangible that is above and beyond them. That sense of mystery, that sense that their love is in some way holy, is what makes marriage a sacrament. The sacramental nature of marriage begins before the service and continues after the service. The wedding service is the time when the couple and the Christian community celebrate the holiness of their love—the presence of Christ's love in their love—and seek God's blessing on their commitment to live and grow in that love.
The service is a sacramental moment, a time when the couple, in the presence of the community, proclaim that their love is graced by Christ's love and receive Christ's love as a blessing on their love. But the service is not the end of the sacrament. The journey continues and the presence of Christ's love in their lives continues even as their union continues to be a sign of Christ's love within the Christian community.
The presence and support of the Christian community in the years ahead help the couple to celebrate that love when they know it and to rediscover that love when it seems lost. The weekly gatherings of the eucharistic community and the more intimate gatherings of faithful Christians engaged in study, prayer, and ministry provide an environment where Christ's love is given and received. Christ's love is thus able to inflame the sometimes feeble embers of married love as couples rediscover that mystery of something greater than themselves.
In the wedding service the couple becomes a sign of God's love to the community. In the marriage journey, the community becomes a sign of God's love to the couple. Each has an important role to play in making God's love in Christ visible and real. So, it is important that the Christian community be involved in a couple's marriage and in their journey before and after the service. And it is important that the couple be involved in the Christian community, before and after the service.
The Vocation of Marriage
Every Christian has a vocation, a primary way in which we embody and live out Christ's command to love God and love our neighbor and thus bring about the reign of God in our daily lives. When we choose to marry, we choose our partner as the nearest neighbor whom we will love most deeply and most fully. The marriage, therefore, is a vocation—the primary way in which the couple chooses to love God through loving each other.
When we promise to love our partner until we are parted by death, we make a lifelong commitment to do all in our power to help this person become who God created him or her to be—a lover of God and of neighbor. We also make a lifelong commitment to accept the help this person offers us as we grow to become who God created us to be. In this way our love for each other is a ministry (active service) and a vocation (a way of being).
In the wedding service, the couple are the ministers of the marriage. The priest (or bishop) pronounces the church's blessing on the marriage, but the sacrament of marriage is administered by the couple. They say the vows that announce and create their lifelong commitment to love each other. As they are
In the wedding service, the couple are the ministers of the marriage. The priest (or bishop) pronounces the church's blessing on the marriage, but the sacrament of marriage is administered by the couple. They say the vows that announce and create their lifelong commitment to love each other. As they are ministers of the marriage in the service, they continue to administer the sacrament to each other day after day. Again and again, new every day, they announce and create their lifelong commitment to love. The marriage journey moves us from choosing to love to making a commitment to love to being and becoming a committed person, living and growing in love. The married couple's growth in love and intimacy becomes their way to holiness, their life vocation.
QUESTIONS FOR COUPLES TO DISCUSS
Marriage Preparation (for those preparing for marriage)
* What first attracted you to your partner? What new dimensions have you discovered and come to appreciate about him or her?
* How do you feel when you are together—about yourself, your partner, and the two of you as a couple?
* What do you dislike or find uncomfortable about your partner? What do you identify as the areas of existing or potential differences, conflicts, or issues?
* If there are significant differences between you (age, race, ethnicity, cultural background, education), how do you feel about those differences? How do you think they will affect your marriage?
* How did you choose whether or not to live together before marriage? Why did you make that decision? How do you feel about it now?
* What led you to decide to marry? How did you make that decision? How do you feel about that decision now?
* What do you understand marriage to be? What do you think is the difference between Christian and non-Christian marriage? Why do you want to get married in the church?
* Who are the people who have supported you as individuals and as a couple? What do you believe is the Christian community's role in your marriage? What is your role in the Christian community?
* What does the Christian faith mean to you? Talk about your experience of God, Christ, and the church. If either or both of you have had a negative experience with religion, discuss how you might seek a positive experience of Christ's presence in your life.
* Do you expect to attend church after you are married? Will you attend separately or together? Where? How involved do you expect to be? If you plan to have children, what do you want them to find in a church? Do you expect that you will have a prayer life together as a couple and/or family?
* How do you anticipate spending religious and other holidays? What expectations do your families have about holidays, religion, participation in church and family events? How will you respond to their expectations?
* What does being a "minister of the marriage" mean to you? How is marriage a vocation? What is the difference between "making a commitment to love" and "becoming a committed person, living and growing in love?"
* What did you learn from this chapter? What decisions do you choose to make in response to what you learned?
Marriage Enrichment (for those already married)
* What first attracted you to your spouse? What new dimensions have you discovered and come to appreciate about him or her since your marriage?
* What led you to decide to marry? How did you make that decision? How do you feel about that decision now? Why have you chosen to remain married?
* How do you feel when you are together—about yourself, your spouse, and the two of you as a couple? What would you like to change?
* What do you dislike or find uncomfortable about your spouse? Did you identify areas of existing or potential differences or conflict before your marriage? What areas have emerged since your marriage? How would you like to handle them?
* Who are the people who have supported you as individuals and as a couple? Has that support changed since your marriage? Is it adequate to meet your needs?
* What do you understand marriage to be? What do you think is the difference between Christian and non-Christian marriage? What do you believe is the Christian community's role in your marriage?
* How is marriage a vocation? What is the difference between "making a commitment to love" and "becoming a committed person, living and growing in love?" Where do you think you are on this continuum?
* What does the Christian faith mean to you? Talk about your experience of God, Christ, and the church. If either or both of you have had a negative experience of religion, discuss how you might seek a positive experience of Christ's presence in your life.
* Do you attend church? If so, do you attend separately or together? How involved are you? Are you comfortable with your current decisions about religion? If not, what would you change? If you have children, what sort of religious education do you want for them? Do you have a prayer life together as a couple and/or family?
* How do you spend religious and other holidays? What expectations do your families have about holidays, religion, and participation in church and family events? How have you responded to their expectations? Have you developed traditions of your own? Are you satisfied with the way you celebrate religious and other holidays? If not, spend some time discussing what changes you might make. Try to identify and develop traditions of your own, either adaptations of your childhood traditions or entirely new ones.
* What did you learn from this chapter? What decisions do you choose to make in response to what you learned?
Excerpted from The Marriage Journey by Linda L. Grenz. Copyright © 2003 by Linda L. Grenz and Delbert C. Glover. Excerpted by permission of Church Publishing Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Preface.................... page ix
How to Use This Book.................... page xi
1. The Sacrament of Marriage.................... page 1
2. Extended Families.................... page 14
3. Being with Others.................... page 27
4. Living Together.................... page 39
5. Fighting Fair.................... page 51
6. Money Matters.................... page 68
7. Sexual Intimacy.................... page 86
8. The Gift of Children.................... page 100
9. Yes, No, Maybe, Why Bother?.................... page 115
10. The Journey Ahead.................... page 136
Resources.................... page 143