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What Your Pastor Isn’t Telling You

Fr. Jonathan Tobias passes on this list [1], written by another pastor. He recommends this one especially. I agree:

 I care more about the regulars. I know I’m not supposed to, but I do. You know, the one’s who show up in the pouring rain, there for every fund raiser and Bible study. When a perfect stranger shows up demanding the rites of the church and treating me like I’m an unfortunate prop in their personal movie, it’s a problem. She may be your granddaughter, but she hasn’t been inside of a church, except as a bridesmaid, in years. She may promise to raise that child as a Christian, but you and I both know she’s not going to get up on Sunday morning. I’m having serious theological qualms about this, I’m just not telling you.

I’ve known a startling number of people over the years who bitch and moan constantly about the failures of pastors and churches to do this or that for them, or to have “been there” in their time of need — but who themselves rarely darken the door of the church, much less tithe. They see the church not as a community, but as a public utility.

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41 Comments To "What Your Pastor Isn’t Telling You"

#1 Comment By Jake Lukas On January 8, 2013 @ 5:35 pm

They see the church not as a community, but as a public utility.

This runs very deep. In the countries where many of our ancestors come from, whether we’re Anglos, Italians, Russians, or Greeks, the churches were established. They were also payed by the same mechanisms as the state. If this is the case, you see the priest to get a marriage the same way Americans see the justice of the peace.

#2 Comment By Lancelot Lamar On January 8, 2013 @ 5:52 pm

Oh man, could I tell stories about this.

Most galling were the daughters of big shots in the community–usually the daughter and parents only nominal members of my establishment church–who would call and expect the church and myself to fulfill to the letter whatever their wedding requirements were, as if it was their right to use our sanctuary the stage set for their gossamer dreams.

This even though they were living with their boyfriends, this even though they were not even Christians except by name. I would tell them my rule that they had to live apart for 6 months, both had to attend worship weekly during that time (if not at my church then another, with a report from that pastor), and had to have 6 sessions of pre-marital counseling and then we would see. They would look at me like I was explaining quantum mechanics–it was a world wholly unknown to them that Christian marriage was not the same as their fantasy Kardashian wedding.

I’m sure the for-profit wedding chapels in our area got a good deal of business from me. Of course I was delighted to marry couples who were clearly active, committed Christians, “equally yoked” in a real relationship with God, the church and each other.

#3 Comment By David J. White On January 8, 2013 @ 5:54 pm

But in a country with a state church, isn’t the state church in a fact a kind of public utility? That’s why I think that if the Church of England really doesn’t want to be forced to perform “gay” “weddings” or at least allow them to take place in Anglican churches, the only answer for them might be disestablishment.

#4 Comment By Polichinello On January 8, 2013 @ 5:57 pm

Any pastor who relies on quotes from Beyonce should not be trusted.

Seriously, I tend to agree with most of his points, but his last one about gettin’ all the young people rubs me the wrong way. I’ve seen priests pull this sort of stunt, and it never works with the young and only alienates those very people who do show up regularly.

#5 Comment By Dakarian On January 8, 2013 @ 6:15 pm

To be honest, though, this troubles me. The church being more into those who are already in regular attendance rather than those who are in the world and, for some reason, think “I need to head to the church for something.” or the one who doesn’t really think of going at all runs the opposite of the very tenants of the New Testament. Christianity isn’t so much worried about the sheep that is already following the shepherd but the sheep that works their way back. Or, as Jesus put it, the sick, rather than the healthy.

It’s nice to see the successes: the individuals already so deep that they’ll come to church every day no matter what. However, while it is the devoted that empower the church to its purpose, it’s purpose is to spread to those outside the church.

That’s not to say that you are to smile and let ‘come and gone’ come and go. The goal, though, is to have them keep coming, or, at least, respect where they are coming into.

It’s hard to focus on those others, so I can’t speak against the pastor feeling this way. It’s understandable, but it can’t be acceptable. We have to fight how we want to accept and instead accept the way God intended us to. That’s why the NT, in a way, reduced 613 laws to 1, because we’re going to need a lot of work to love one another the way God wants us to.

As a positive though, it’s the point when you realize that what’s asked goes beyond what you can even attempt to do that you know you’re on the Godly path.

#6 Comment By Angela On January 8, 2013 @ 6:36 pm

In my Quaker meeting, a couple requests a clearness committee in order to be married under the care of the meeting. One of the betrothed must be a member of meeting and the clearness committee takes their responsibility very seriously. In the last few years, we have had one couple who were turned down to be allowed to marry under our meetings care. One couple was asked to wait a bit while they took care of some unresolved issues. My husband and I were cleared to renew our vows under the care of the meeting, and our renewal took place during a Sunday Meeting for Worship.

Daisy Newman’s I Take Thee, Serenity is an idealistic book about the process. And it is the book that ultimately brought me to Friends.

#7 Comment By Fred On January 8, 2013 @ 6:42 pm

So the prodigal son’s old man had it bass-ackwards. Who knew?! Jesus must’ve been confused that day.

#8 Comment By k On January 8, 2013 @ 6:43 pm

I guess I see this from a slightly different way – it has always been obvious to me that most churches care more about their regulars, the in crowd, as any social group would. In most of them you have to go for a long time and really prove yourself in their eyes before the pastor or anyone else cares too much about you.

#9 Comment By Ampersand On January 8, 2013 @ 6:52 pm

“This even though they were living with their boyfriends, this even though they were not even Christians except by name. I would tell them my rule that they had to live apart for 6 months,”

I’ve heard of other pastors with this policy, and I’ve always wondered…why not tell them that they have to stop having premarital sex, instead? Making them live apart won’t change that, in all likelihood. It seems like it’s addressing the image presented more than the actual issue.

#10 Comment By Clint On January 8, 2013 @ 6:59 pm

The Reverend J.Gary Brinn, the list’s author, a Congregational United Church of Christ Minister is just experiencing some of the similar human qualms and considerations that mullahs, rabbis, ministers and priests have experienced for generations.

#11 Comment By Joe Mc.. .Faul On January 8, 2013 @ 7:41 pm

Access to the clergy or to congressmen is always the same: Pay to Play.

I find his comments to be extremely offensive. In my experience in serval catholic parishes across the country, (I was inthe military) the priests and bishops clearly play favorities, and the easiest way to get “personal attention” or a waiver of technical requirements for access to sacraments is to be a significant donator. I say that as a beneficiary of the Pay to Play scam myself.

#12 Comment By EngineerScotty On January 8, 2013 @ 7:43 pm

I’ve heard of other pastors with this policy, and I’ve always wondered…why not tell them that they have to stop having premarital sex, instead? Making them live apart won’t change that, in all likelihood. It seems like it’s addressing the image presented more than the actual issue.

That would require the pastor to make more in-depth inquiries into their personal lives; it is easier to observe whether a couple are cohabiting or not.

(I’m curious, though: what is the purpose of this rule? To prevent the sacrament of marriage being given to a person who is manifestly in a state of sin? To lessen the chance that a marriage is all about sex, on the theory that such unions are more likely to end up badly? Some churches might encourage a cohabiting couple to get married, so they aren’t sinning any longer.)

#13 Comment By Nate On January 8, 2013 @ 8:13 pm

Great list here by the Rev.

Nice.

I speak from familial experience here: always remember that your average man of the cloth is overworked and underpaid.

#14 Comment By MH – Secular Misanthropist On January 8, 2013 @ 8:18 pm

I have good news for the pastor. I will never show up on the doorstep of a church asking for services, nor will I bitch about them.

In most of them you have to go for a long time and really prove yourself in their eyes before the pastor or anyone else cares too much about you.

This strikes me as a recipe for people not coming back after a visit or two.

#15 Comment By Frank OConnor On January 8, 2013 @ 8:26 pm

Dakarian,
More years ago than I like to remember I was watching Firing Line with Bill Buckley debating Madeline Murray O’Hare, the outspoken atheist of the day. She is rolling along and mentions the “tenants” of the Church when Bill very suddenly interjects, “tenets.” What, asks O’Hare, clearly not understanding what Buckley is saying. He replies, it’s the “tenets’ of the Church, not “tenants.”

#16 Comment By Charles Cosimano On January 8, 2013 @ 8:26 pm

This brings to mind the story of when my Uncle Vito died many years ago. Like the vast majority of Italian men of his generation, Vito had only darkened a church after his marriage to attend the wedding of his daughter.

Well, my father, his daughters and my father’s sisters and respective spouses all converged on his house to discuss arrangements and there was some concern by my aunts that the Catholic Church might not want to bury Uncle Vito. My father, in spite of his grief as Vito was his best friend, still had the sense of humor and perhaps was quite serious when he said that it was no problem. He would call our minister, also a good friend, and arrange for a Protestant funeral. In spite of everything he and mother managed a good laugh when they told me about the looks on my aunts’ faces.

But Vito was buried with Catholic rites.

One of the advantage of a multiplicity of churches is that if one pastor is an old fussbudget, there will be one down the block who does not care.

#17 Comment By Turmarion On January 8, 2013 @ 8:39 pm

Luke 14:7-14; Luke 15:3-10.

#18 Comment By Zathras On January 8, 2013 @ 8:45 pm

This is just what the Jesus said about the Good Shepherd, right, that when a sheep goes off, the Shepherd should just say good riddance, it’s a better flock without him?

#19 Comment By shk On January 8, 2013 @ 9:01 pm

Either you are a seller of religious ritual services or you are a religious community. Restricting religious services to those who choose to commit to the community in some meaningful way, including a reasonable level of financial support, is the opposite of pay to play.

#20 Comment By Fred Garvin On January 8, 2013 @ 9:06 pm

For a man who thinks he’s heard the voice of god, odd that he never notices that god is telling the Catholics, the Orthodox, the Fundiegelicals and most Black and Hispanic and 3rd world churches something different than He’s telling the Protestant Mainline about gay marriage and women’s ordination.
And he never mentions how this might make people who can read and compare and contrast take religion less seriously. Why bother with a message that changes with every place you visit? This pastor must know that his church has about as much chance of becoming “diverse” and not shrinking as Al Sharpton does of becoming Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2016. They’re all niche churches; they’re not going to grow and in about 30 years’ time, they’ll be about as important as the Dutch vote in New York City.

#21 Comment By Jim On January 8, 2013 @ 9:08 pm

Ampersand and Engineer Scotty:

I can’t speak for Protestants or Orthodox, but in the Catholic Church, cohabiting outside of marriage creates scandal, whether the couple is having sex or not, because the logical and reasonable assumption is that they are having sex.

The creation of that scandal leads others to sin indirectly, which is in itself a sin.

#22 Comment By RB On January 8, 2013 @ 9:21 pm

EngineerScotty, my understanding of it is this: clergy are, ideally, reluctant to perform marriages for people who mistreat each other.

That’s based on the belief that sex is powerful and binding, and for the sakes of practicioners and potential offspring, needs to be practiced only within marriage, where loving commitments have been made.

From this perspective, a couple having premarital sex has shown by their choices that they are not willing or able to obey important commandments, and that they privilege their physical pleasure above the spiritual and emotional health of their partner. That lack of self-control and concern for a potential spouse doesn’t bode well for a happy marriage.

I know this goes against our secular culture’s tenets; I know some people feel premarital sex is harmless or even necessary, that potential spouses need to try before they buy.

Religiously speaking, it’s a common sin, and of course a couple engaging in it should, like any other person or people missing the mark and hurting themselves with their choices, be approached in love and with the goal of helping them choose a happier life.

Those who believe premarital sex is victimless and harmless are certainly welcome to get married by a someone who agrees with them, but asking clergy from a more traditional church to put that concern for the couple’s wellbeing aside is unrealistic, to say the least. A good clergy person counseling a couple for marriage should be alert to any sign of abuse or unrighteous dominion within the marriage.

Personally speaking, I am grateful for clergy like this. I think these commandments protect women. I don’t know anyone who is happy in the long term with a sexually liberated lifestyle. Cultural pressure on women to be sexually experienced, available and aggressive combined with a lack of support for commitment and fidelity tacitly encourages selfishness, which will manifest in many other ways.

And, still speaking anecdotally, marriages that begin in selfishness will either die in selfishness or will have to make a painful transition to something better. It’s a rare man who can happily go from getting the milk for free to maintaining a barn and a cow.

To put it even more crudely, if he’s not willing to keep it in his pants for your sake, how willing is he going to be to hold your hair back while you throw up or go without sex while you’re on bed rest?

Yeah. I think it’s only right for someone to point this out to prospective married couples.

#23 Comment By Chris Jones On January 8, 2013 @ 9:26 pm

EngineerScotty,

I’m curious, though: what is the purpose of this rule?

Obviously I cannot speak for Pastor Brinn, but if I could, I would say this:

This “rule” is not a rule for its own sake, but an expression of a deeper reality: that the rites and sacraments of the Church are intended for those who confess faith in Jesus Christ and strive to live according to His commandments. None of us, of course, meets the standard of “living according to His commandments” perfectly; but those who are cohabiting before marriage are publicly thumbing their noses at those commandments. Under such circumstances to approach the altar of His Church to receive His blessing is more than a lie, it is a travesty.

That principle is worked out differently in different denominations, of course. Some Protestant denominations will marry just about any couple who are willing to rent the Church building and pay the pastor an honorarium for the ceremony. But in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, either the bride or the groom must be a member of the parish where the wedding is to take place, and the other spouse must be, if not Catholic or Orthodox, at least a validly baptized Christian. But the principle is that the rites of the Church are for believers, for those who confess Christ crucified and at least try to live by that faith.

#24 Comment By Liam S On January 8, 2013 @ 9:26 pm

I’m the product of many years of intimate association with clergy and the clerical universe, so I’ve the utmost sympathy with the frustration priests and pastors feel when, as so often happens, they are treated with rudeness and disrespect, when they are taken for granted and abused, and when the very holy things to which they have dedicated their lives are treated as so many vaguely-meaningful cultural artifacts. I get that.

But at the same time, as we profess in the Creed, the Church is not a sect or cult designed to minister to the spiritual needs of its own membership. It is catholic, and called to serve the whole world. For that reason, I believe very strongly that every human being, regardless of who he is, what she has done, or what they believe, has an inalienable right to the ministrations of the Church. Anyone who professes faith in the Christian Gospel and desires salvation has a right to be baptized. Any baptized person who wants to raise his children in the Christian faith has a right to have his children baptized. Any person who wants to come to the Church and pray, to talk to a priest and ask his counsel, or to ask for God’s blessing on his life has a right to these things. These are not favors being dispensed by the Church and her clergy, rather, they are the mandate of her divine Founder.

Certainly the Church has the right in her turn to regulate how she will carry out these duties, to set standards and make requirements in the interest of elevating the spiritual life of her membership, but she can never just turn people away. Two unbaptized people come to get married. Well, maybe you can’t do the wedding, but you can meet with them and counsel them, perhaps come and offer a prayer at the civil wedding. Who knows? They might get baptized one day! Someone needs a funeral, but they weren’t a Christian and never went to church and in fact published several anti-religious tracts? Well, maybe you don’t sing a solemn Requiem Mass with choir and orchestra, but you still have a basic Christian duty – make that a basic human duty – to bury anyone who needs burying and say some kind of prayer.

That can be very difficult sometimes, but that’s the uncompromising truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Besides, in my experience of church life, the ones most likely to use and abuse clergy are not the unchurched. For the most part, they tend to be nervous, clueless, and generally polite, simply intent on getting whatever it is they came for. Rather, the worst abusers, as in the case of our Lord, are ‘Church people’. There is no demon worse than the one who backs up his lies with a pious ‘thus saith the Lord’.

#25 Comment By Glaivester On January 8, 2013 @ 9:33 pm

I think this talk about the prodigal son misses the point – the prodigal son came back to ask to re-join his father’s house as a servant. He didn’t say “I’ll go back, ask him for money, and once I get it, be on my way again.”

It’s not that someone only went back to church because of an immediate need, it’s because the person does not seem to have the proper attitude of why to come back.

#26 Comment By Glaivester On January 8, 2013 @ 9:40 pm

Anyone who professes faith in the Christian Gospel and desires salvation has a right to be baptized.

What if they wish to be baptized, but when asked, disagree with the fundamental tenets of the Church? “Please baptize me because so-and-so wants me to. Oh, Jesus? Sure, he was good, but I don’t think whether or not he was resurrected is that important.”

Any baptized person who wants to raise his children in the Christian faith has a right to have his children baptized.

Of course, that’s one thing that, as a Baptist, I would strongly disagree with.

#27 Comment By Larry On January 8, 2013 @ 9:47 pm

“Access to the clergy or to congressmen is always the same: Pay to Play.”

Oh please. (at least in the case of clergy). The people who are “significant donators” are also usually the people are active in other ways, serving on parish and diocesan committees, raising funds for various programs, serving as lectors, members of the Knights, etc. They aren’t just writing checks. They have “access” because they are there working with the priests, helping out, and not just showing up for Mass once a week; they have “access” built on personal relationships. Expecting clergy to drop or change everything to accommodate someone who shows up once a year seems a bit selfish to me.

Besides, at the end of the day, you don’t actually know what “technical requirements” may or may not be waived. I would imagine most of this type of knowledge is gained through gossip.

#28 Comment By David J. White On January 8, 2013 @ 10:23 pm

For a man who thinks he’s heard the voice of god, odd that he never notices that god is telling the Catholics, the Orthodox, the Fundiegelicals and most Black and Hispanic and 3rd world churches something different than He’s telling the Protestant Mainline about gay marriage and women’s ordination. … (snip) … They’re all niche churches; they’re not going to grow and in about 30 years’ time, they’ll be about as important as the Dutch vote in New York City.

And yet, Fred, the Churches that are receiving messages about “gay marriage and women’s ordination” that run counter to the spirit of the secular culture at large are the ones that are more likely to be growing, or at least shrinking less, whereas the Churches that are “in step” with the times are the ones where the bottom is dropping out. Which ones are more likely to be around in 30 years?

#29 Comment By pinkjohn On January 8, 2013 @ 10:51 pm

This post was shared with me by a clergy colleague asking for opinions on his facebook page. He got quite a range of reactions, especially from among fellow clergy people. All of us have been treated badly on occasion by people with no investment in faith or church but feel free to spew bile at us when they feel so moved. While we might have our own ways of dealing, the fact is that it HURTS. We are not above feeling these things. One’s skin may get thicker over time, but I for one, did not get into ministry so I wouldn’t feel pain. As for regulars, they can also be “crosses to bear” in other ways. They take up more of our time because they often abuse their access to us. So be it.

I do quibble with this tired old debate about “changing” things in the church to “grow” the congregation. The writer posits it as one of the issues he has with old-timers, as if they hold back growth by refusing to change things. At this stage of my career, I feel that is crap. Local and congregation-based traditions are extremely meaningful and should be treated with great respect. Pastors come and go, but the holiday craft fair, music styles, or membership in the altar guild can stay constant for decades. Why change them for people who are not there, in the hopes they will somehow come when we abandon the piano for a hammer dulcimer or incorporate liturgical dancing?

I feel that churches can be vibrant no matter how small, and that what matters is an open door, authentic invitation and honest welcoming. God will lead the right people to your door if you truly seek to be led by the Spirit.

[Note from Rod: This post is a big reason why, John, that even though you and I differ so strongly on some issues important to both of us, I’m really glad you frequent this blog. — RD]

#30 Comment By Turmarion On January 8, 2013 @ 10:55 pm

Glaivester, I’m not sure I agree with your take on the Prodigal Son. He does not show any regret or remorse about running through his father’s money, but decides to return only because of an “immediate need”–that is, he’s starving and wishes he even had the husks he’s feeding the pigs.

Many commentators have also pointed out that the son makes a point of rehearsing his line, leaving it an open question as to how sincere he is (he may be thinking, “If I do the humble schtick, Dad’ll take me back, and he won’t really make me be a servent.”). Also, note carefully that the father runs joyfully to his son while he’s still a long way off, cuts the son off before he finishes his speech or mentions the offer to be treated as a servant, and immediately restores his son to the household, no questions asked. I think there’s a good case to be made that the father’s reaction is unconditional and is not predicated on any change of attitude (or “appropriate” attitude) on the son’s part.

I’d recommend Robert Farrar Capon’s excellent books on the parables, and his extended discussion of this one in particular.

#31 Comment By MarieTeresa On January 9, 2013 @ 6:09 am

We had a “prodigal son” present himself for Communion. His mother was overjoyed that he attended Mass. He’s about 19.

After Mass in front of several people Father told him that he had no business receiving Communion. The boy has never returned.

The young man probably hadn’t gone to Confession, but Father had no way of knowing. He says since the boy never came back that he was right to publicly condemn him.

Not all priests are biting their tongues.

#32 Comment By CK On January 9, 2013 @ 8:13 am

“They see the church not as a community, but as a public utility.”

Rod Dreher, this quote is brilliant and timeless.

#33 Comment By Leapold On January 9, 2013 @ 8:30 am

I left my church briefly, during a confused time in my life, but one day returned to accompany my Aunt. Later that week I got a phone call from the pastor. He simply said, “Many hearts were gladdened to see you at church.”

No reproach at all. I thought that was a wonderful pastoral job and decided that, strict though my church might be, it is out of love and for protection. I ended up returning for good.

#34 Comment By Ann On January 9, 2013 @ 9:09 am

I don’t know how I feel about this. I began a reversion to the Catholic Church after attending a funeral Mass (a funeral Mass for a woman who wasn’t an active parishioner there by the way). It was very distinct, it happened that day, I knew that I was supposed to “come home.” We talk about evangelization, but maybe these are the times where people can be reached.

#35 Comment By Chris Jones On January 9, 2013 @ 9:28 am

The young man probably hadn’t gone to Confession, but Father had no way of knowing.

If Father had no way of knowing, it’s because the young man did not tell him. If the young man had absented himself from the Church for a long period of time, he had in effect excommunicated himself, and stood in need of being reconciled with Christ and His Church. That reconciliation takes more than just showing up at Mass one Sunday because he felt like it, and approaching the altar for Holy Communion as if nothing had happened.

The priest at the altar is the guardian of the Chalice (stewards of the mysteries of God, 1 Co 1.4). The reception of Holy Communion is a public act of confession of the faith of the Church, and while a priest normally presumes that those who come forward do believe the Church’s faith and live according to her discipline, in a case where the priest has every reason to believe that a person does not so believe and live, it is his duty to refuse Communion.

Rather than “just show up” and expect to be communed as a matter of right, the young man’s duty was to go to the priest beforehand and say “Father, I want to return to the Church and live a Christian life. Will you hear my confession (or, I have made my confession to Fr So-and-so) and give me your blessing to receive Communion?”. What is wanted is to return to the Church, not just pop in for a visit.

#36 Comment By Sharon Astyk On January 9, 2013 @ 10:51 am

In Judaism, unlike Christianity, the synagogue IS something of a public (to the Jewish community, anyway) utility, and there’s a long modern tradition of it receiving much of its economic support from Jews who don’t necessarily have any intention of attending services, but want a public and safe space for Jewish practice. This is less true among the current generation, but Chabad/Lubvaitch for example have derived much of their funding this way – from largely secular grandparents who want their children to remain still Jewish. It is a strange dynamic, and one that makes me somewhat uncomfortable at time, having been raised in a church community, but it comes from real historical and practical reasons.

That said, that attenuated relationship between those who view it as something they owe more than a check to and those who see it as a service can be strained. Our shul recently lost (and ultimately there was little grief over this) a family that my husband had been involved with (he tutors bar and bat mitzvah students in ritual matters). The family clearly and explicitly made their case that having paid for a bat mitzvah for their daughter, they expected the service of preparing her for one without any support on their part, including compliance with the requirements. Ultimately, my husband was forced to tell the parents that the young woman was likely to be embarrassed by her lack of ritual knowledge and inability to meet even the minimal standards of the community, upon which they decamped, after letting our Rabbi know that they were deeply disappointed that the service they had bought (a bat mitzvah) was not provided without effort on their part. No one minded, but this was simply a more extreme version of something we encounter fairly often – and struggle with. Do we hold rigorous standards for Jewish life and thus risk cutting out people who simply aren’t there yet, or do we open up and empty out the rigor which is the primary attractant to many of us?

#37 Comment By cermak_rd On January 9, 2013 @ 12:28 pm

I think this will work its way out in the case of weddings at least. Of the 4 I’ve attended in the past 2 years, 2 were at parks (1 a city park, 1 a state park), done by JPs and the other 2 were done at the reception site by friends of the couple (internet ordination). So as the expectation that one will have a church as a backdrop to a wedding and that a professional clergy member will preside fades, I don’t think the clergy will continue to be bothered by non-adherents wanting their rites.

In Iowa, there’s a beautiful wedding chapel that is a former Catholic church. It gets a lot of its custom from families that used to attend the parish that was there (this was perhaps the clumsiest job of parish consolidation ever performed–about 20% of the members of this particular parish continued with the new combined parish). So as the sites for non-religious marriages multiply and as inter-faith couples continue to wed, I think religious marriages will dwindle to be a service just to the faithful.

#38 Comment By Mike W On January 9, 2013 @ 6:58 pm

It can certainly sympathize with the reverend who penned this piece. When I ran a small town symphony, we had our share of patrons who thought it well within their rights to eviscerate our volunteers, staff and musicians over various perceived slights or mistakes after a performance. When I was feeling charitable, I was often struck by how powerless most people must feel if the only way they could feel powerful was by beating us up. When I wasn’t feeling charitable, I just dismissed them as*&holes. I also managed to be civil, even to the as*&holes, but it was never easy. I do think blogs and social media contribute to this impulse. Everyone has an opinion nowadays and God forbid they keep it to themselves. No, indeed, they have to share it on Facebook, or, like I’m doing right at the moment, on a blog like this. Doesn’t matter anymore if the opinion isn’t well considered or even bad form or cruel…no, the important thing nowadays is the opinion itself. In some ways, I think it would be better if people listened a little more, and kept their opinions to themselves a little more.

Best regards.

#39 Comment By pinkjohn On January 9, 2013 @ 9:11 pm

[Note from Rod: This post is a big reason why, John, that even though you and I differ so strongly on some issues important to both of us, I’m really glad you frequent this blog. — RD]

Thanks Rod! You made my day. Look me up next time you’re in NYC.

#40 Comment By Dave138 On January 10, 2013 @ 8:20 am

Angela, good to hear the word “Quaker” here. Would that be Friends General Conference, Friends United Meeting, or Evangelical Friends International? I grew up in and was married in FUM churches. We had the option of a clearness committee, but didn’t take it. Maybe we should have.

#41 Comment By Michael J. Lichens On January 10, 2013 @ 10:01 am

This post kind of reminded me of this video: [2]