Monday, July 31, 2006

Clean-up and random thoughts

Well, all (or most) of the church's worldly possessions have been moved to the basement, to an unused Sunday school room. The contractor is supposed to come in tomorrow to remove the damaged plaster and replace the dropped ceiling.

We don't have use of our phone, although we can check for messages, nor internet service. However, I had already decided to take tomorrow off and visit my mom, so that's OK.

We survived Pride, barely--it was extremely hot and humid all weekend. We had a wonderful turnout, great entertainment, a good time all around. I had a marvelous time riding in a pink (Samoan Coral, to be exact) 1964 Thunderbird convertible in the parade--rainbow feather boa and all!

So today we had a wedding in the early afternoon, which we roasted through, but I'm taking the rest of today and all of tomorrow off.

One of the calls I returned today was from a couple who want to get married--come into town, get the licence, get married, celebrate--all in one day. I'm not terribly happy about doing these sorts of weddings, as I have said before, but I try to accomodate people, because for most of them, it's the only way they're going to be able to get married. They can't get married in the US, of course, so they want to come to Canada, and Windsor is right there at Detroit, an easy reach from many Midwestern cities (from Chicago to Indianapolis to Ohio, and of course Michigan). Sometimes a day is all they have.

At the same time, this is a serious ceremony, and I try to impress this on the couples. If a couple has been together just a couple of years, or doesn't really know why they want to be married, then I won't do it. I had one woman call me and say she wanted to set up a "surprise wedding" for her partner. Needless to say, I turned that one down flat. There are many couples, however, who've been together for 15, 25, even (for one wonderful pair of ladies) 40 years. And they want to make it legal.

My point is that I work at these weddings. I don't do it for a quick buck; this is part of my ministry, and it is important to me that these marriages be about a true committment, not a fad or "just because we can."

So this call today was from a gentleman in another city, who wanted to set up a wedding for himself and his partner. When I called him, however, he said he had checked our website and was "shocked" at our fees. The truth is, our fees are lower than most churches in Windsor, and only marginally more than the city clerk charges. He had contacted a wedding service provider here who has lower fees and was waiting to hear from them.

I have several issues with this. I understand the need to be careful with your budget. But this is your wedding, and the ceremony is the centrepiece. You want it to be as meaningful as possible, not a quick gabble that you won't remember in an hour. Every couple I have married has said that the service was meaningful, that it reflected what they felt for each other, that it brought God into the service without being preachy, and they were moved. One couple whom I have known socially asked me to officiate at their wedding, even though they attend another church, because they wanted my touch--"we never even considered asking anyone else," they said. But I understand that for some people (many people?) spirituality is just not that important. I've had people calling to inquire about a wedding asking if it would be "spiritual" and I tell them yes, it will be--not neccessarily overtly Christian, because I do interfaith weddings, but there will be an element of spirituality there. It's surprising to me, how many people would ask a pastor to do a non-spiritual service... My point is that if you want a spiritually-meaningful service, one that you will remember longer than you remember the party afterwards, one that speaks to the depths of who you and your partner are, then you are asking for a spiritual professional--and I am worth every cent of that fee.

My other issue is this--I suspect this company that the gentleman is waiting for a call-back from is the company that stood up the couple that I married in a "mercy wedding" a couple of weeks ago. I don't know that it is; the couple were reluctant to identify who stood them up. But it sounds like the same one, from various details the first couple let drop. I can't tell the gentleman this without proof (besides, I'd sound like I was bad-mouthing the company in order to get him to use us for the wedding), but I'm afraid he might get stood up the same way. So I'm left with knowing a train wreck may be happening, and I can't prevent it.

Ethics--ain't they sticky?


Songbird said...

That is sticky. Maybe you need to have a conversation with the wedding service?
Your situation is unique in some ways, but the general theme of people wanting a minister to do the wedding even though they are not connected to the, or even a, church confronts many pastors with alarming frequency.

Rainbow Pastor said...

Yes, I meant to say that some of these things are not unique to me--I'm sure every pastor has his or her store of horror wedding stories. Pastor Friend here in Windsor, for example, had a woman call to set up an appointment for a wedding meeting, and when her "fiance" showed up, it turned out he though they were coming for a couples counseling meeting! Another "surprise wedding."

Certainly the fees issue is not unique. I think people who are not active in, or close to, a clergy person, simply don't realize how much effort goes into any service--and when you are asking for something special, such as a wedding, it's appropriate to acknowledge that. That said, I would never charge a fee for a baptism or a member's funeral. I have received "gifts" after funerals; I gave them to the church.

Like pastoral salaries, fees are a touchy issue!

Marie said...

I never thought about what it would mean to be an MCC pastor in Canada. You must be bombarded with this. And yes, you should charge fees. You should hear what we charge non-members! We try to impress upon them that we are a church, not a hall for rent. Of course, as a U.S. lesbian, I'm kinda glad that you see your role a little differently for those of us who can't get legally married anywhere else (close).

Questing Parson said...

I think Marie is right: it's a church not a hall to rent.

And I'm sure some of the tension comes in the calling. I'm always looking at the title of my denominations marriage ceremony. The title is a Celebration of Christian Marriage.

I'm always ill-at-ease when performing a service of marriage in the church for those whose faith I question.

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