I was privileged two or three weeks ago to assist at a couple of weddings at St. Alban’s. Like confirmations, it is always moving to see adults make considered, public declarations. As I watched them take their positions in the traditional formations for the declarations and vows, flanked by their attendants, I was reminded of once seeing, either on the tele or perhaps just a still image in a newspaper or magazine, a wedding of a baseball player.
The baseball player’s wedding took place on a baseball field. The bride and groom processed from home plate to the pitcher mound, or maybe from the mound to home plate, I don’t recall exactly, but what I do recall was his teammates, in their uniforms, lining the way of the procession, with baseball bats raised in the kind of arch that the bride and groom walked under, similar to the way a couple might leave a wedding in a military chapel through an arch of drawn swords raised by two lines of uniformed army officers facing each other.
I recall my two reactions. In my first, my innate conservatism showed itself in a reaction of disapproval. “Sacrilegious” I thought. But the more I thought about it, the more I came around to an opposite view. I reflected more on the basic meaning of the ceremony, like an anthropologist might, which is simply two people declaring to their primary social group their intention to form a pair bond, to assure a person in a leadership position of their group that they are not already in another pair bond and are freely willing to do so, and an expression from their whole social cohort that it is perfectly fine with them. As such, if a couple’s community is a church then a wedding in a church is the right thing, but if not, if their social group is a baseball team together with their friends and relatives, then to make their declarations and vows before them in their sacred space, a ball field, seems totally fitting and proper. Indeed, it came to seem to me that if the couple had no connection to a religious community, then a wedding in a church seemed the sacrilegious act, a mere using of the church and its rites for show.
Even with respect to the raising of children, should they be the product of the marriage, the baseball couple would have a similar intention, even if unarticulated in their wedding ceremony, to raise them to know and love baseball, not unlike the purpose of a Christian marriage, expressed in the prayers, to raise children to know and love God.
What does this say about the future of the church, if anything? For one thing, the freedom of people to choose a life in a Christian community or not, could lead to a healthy sorting out of those who are in it just as a matter of social conformity, or worse, for social or political advancement, a violation of the fourth commandment. It really can’t be decoupled from the mission of the Church as expressed in the Ministry of the Laity in the Catechism, to represent and bear witness to Christ and to carry on His work of reconciliation in the world.
“We thank you that in all parts of the earth a community of love has been gathered together by the prayers and labors…of those whom you have sent to preach the Gospel…” From Thanksgiving for the Mission of the Church.
Ron Hicks, Parish Verger, St. Alban’s Episcopal Church, Washington DC, 23 June 2015.
i don’t know baseball; but I know Karate Do. I guess it is comprised within God and the point in Christ is to uphold dignity, honor, love especially and like the cup overflowing beyond the family to the poor, and justice. These things in the Way of Christ, which I think is the Way of Karate (Karate Do) but I don’t know about baseball, are what energizes daily life of the converted heart in the world so that Christ becomes the Light of the world.
II. Weddings are always pretty and sweet but the basis of Christ’s character is what they call in martial arts: chr ku, which means, translated from the Chinese, eat bitter. It is said that you cannot be a martial artist unless you can chr ku. I have done this for forty years. But the greatest Karate is not the powerful strike. It is the tenderness of a new born chick. It is the delicacy of a bird’s wing. For these things block and kill the specters of hatred and turn the mind to love.
Forgive me, but I have never had beauty, nor comfort, nor joy, nor love. I ask your prayers.
You have my prayers — that the veil of illness be lifted so that you may see the love and beauty and joy that is already here. I acknowledge your pain… at the same time wondering if there is a better venue for expression and feedback then this place, which is not set up for that.