There was a warm southerly breeze blowing just as it had been on 9th September 1978. The only difference was it ruffled greying hair rather than a long white veil forty years on! And rather than arrive with my father at my family church of Water Lane, Bishop’s Stortford, Peter and I arrived together at St.James’ for what was to be a very special, possibly historic service to celebrate our two-church marriage.
Ulrike and Father Quentin Jackson had generously spent time together planning a service that was to incorporate a permission, granted by Bishop Alan Williams for me to share communion on this occasion. We celebrated together with the attendees at the 9am Mass which is now conveniently held in our church of St.James’.
The Mass began with the entrance as usual of the priest and altar servers, but with the exciting addition of Ulrike, dressed in her Lutheran robes.
There was an air of anticipation within the congregation, amplified when Father Quentin began to introduce the service explaining that we were celebrating “Peter and Margaret’s marriage of forty years” and then went on to make the unexpected comment “we Catholics are extreme”, explaining that within the Christian church there are many expressions of the love of Christ and the ways in which we commemorate His Last Supper; Catholics consider that at the eucharist the Real Presence is manifest, a belief not held in many other churches.
In his homily Father Quentin expanded his thoughts further by using a simile -“imagine the Church is like a garden - some are daffodils, some maybe roses. They are all flowers and beautiful, making up the garden. They are not the same but can live and grow together”.
Ulrike read the Gospel, taking the story of the House built on the Rock, a theme expanded by Father Quentin when he talked about marriage and the importance of firm foundations. We were then given a joint blessing from both ministers and shared an exchange of promises between us.
However long I have been married to Peter and on special occasions been able to share communion together, the immense joy of sharing is never diminished. This occasion was very special indeed, especially when many others in the congregation as they went up to receive communion touched my shoulder approvingly as I sat at the end of our pew.
After the service we had many supportive comments, a suggestion that “we should do this more often” (not quite sure what - marriage, Ruby Weddings or simply worshipping together!) as Ulrike and Quentin stood to shake hands with everyone as they left for home. It felt energising and joyful, just as we should feel after church!
A tea party followed in the afternoon where family and members of both RC and URC congregations shared cake together - no permissions required there - just people enjoying life together, just as Christ would have wanted?