You will have people ask you to bless their new wedding ring, an older minister warned me.
Newly ordained, I had just started at St Matthew’s Manly. It was still the age of church weddings and St Matthew’s was a favourite venue.
Often people would return to ‘our family church’, as the northern beaches people liked to think of St Matthew’s. They would tell of years ago when the rector called for a mile of pennies to be laid on the footpath to raise finances for the buildings. They had put their penny on the footpath and it was their building.
At crucial times in life’s journey people would return to St Matthew’s. It provided possibilities for the personal ministry of the gospel, if the minister knew how to sensitively take hold of the opportunity. How could you turn the blessing of new wedding rings into anything but a farce?
‘Superstition’, I called it in horror. “How can a minister of the gospel be involved in such superstition? The puritans were right, if that is what people think about wedding rings we should do away with them completely.”
“Anyway, why would they come back to have their rings blessed? Was not the original wedding good enough? Do they think that the blessing of God on their marriage is somehow wearing off and they need a top up?”
The older minister pointed out that people buy replacement wedding rings for lots of reasons, such as loss and damage or simply because they put on weight. And when they buy new ones they do not feel right about them because they were not the original. So they return to the church and ask for the new ring to be blessed.
“Well what do you do?” I asked horrified by the possibility. “They nearly always ask at the door as they leave church, so I ask them to wait behind for a minute until everyone else has left so we can pray together. Then I take them back into the building where we can sit and talk quietly. I offer them something better than praying for their ring, I offer to pray for their marriage. So we talk about their life together, their children, and God’s blessings to them down the years. Then I lead them in prayer about all of life’s riches, with gratitude for the past and requests for the future.”
The very next Sunday, as I was shaking hands at the door a visitor came to me almost sheepishly, and in lowered voice asked if I would bless her new wedding ring. The opportunity was too good to miss. Gathering her embarrassed husband over to us we sat down to talk about their marriage and the family. We talked and laughed and they cried as we gave God thanks for the years and as we prayed together for the future.
Strangely and disappointingly, as best I can remember that was the one and only time anyone ever asked me to bless their new wedding ring!