Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Problem with Wedding Rentals: objectification

We had another wedding rental. It was a big deal. The couple from another church really wanted their (her) wedding at MCC. Our policy now stipulates that one of our pastors must officiate at "outside" weddings. They reluctantly agreed. Light poles were brought in. A dance floor was set up on the patio. Chairs were rented. Caterers were hired. 3 photographers recorded the event along with a vidoegrapher from multiple angles. The wedding was choreographed by the minute. No detail was too small to be rearranged and recalibrated. My normal one hour rehearsal devolved into two and a half hours. I lost control. I was a bit player in a large play. I was instructed when to stand and then when to go sit down in the congregation, so their pastor could conduct the central part of the wedding. During the reception time, one of the guests asked me when this couple used to attend MCC. When I said that they never attended here, but were regular at another church, she asked: "Then why get married here? This is not their church?" When I replied "They think our church is nicer than theirs" it struck my friend as harsh. Was it?
When I had an occasion to talk with other of the hired staff, their comments were all the same. We were hired to do a job and they were a demanding couple. In reflection I realized that this wedding entailed no ministry on the part of MCC. We were a hired set to drape around the couple. If a color or piece of furniture did not work, move it out of the way. Sets are objects with no inherent depth, just for the pose. Sets are set up and torn down. Workman were in the church patio till almost 11 pm putting away the gear until their next gig, their next set.
I don't like the church becoming an object. When couples who have no church come to us for marriage, we take on an instructive tutorial role, guiding them into a spiritual context. When couples who come from local churches rent the facility, they are a complete package and we become hired hands. I'm not sure we are missional, just agreeable. I don't think that's good enough. The church should be more.


At 10:29 PM , Blogger MichaelGP said...

Working stiffs yes, but possibly through kindness of spirit and strength of faith could we have possibly allowed Christ to touch the others through our deads and sharing? One on One making the seemingly task like process easier on the performers in this ritual possibly allowing them to be more open to the messages behind the rehersed walk through?! I think so. And as one of the task ladden servants if I was able to help but one feel less stress or less difficulty am I not giving as I am ment to give? Let me ponder...

At 2:16 AM , Blogger Ted M. Gossard said...

Good question (and comment). That's a tough one. How many couples who come like that are going to be that controlling? Wouldn't the possibilities outweigh the problems in this context? I'd be surprised to learn that this is not an unusual couple and unusual wedding situation you encountered.

At 6:16 AM , Blogger kent said...

Your comment was not harsh, it was true. How do you describe a wedding? For most it is not a worship event, it is a celebration complete with costumes and set design. And those who work in the church are for the most part hired guns. It sounds rude, but it is still true. Of course we can share the grace of Jesus with the couple and family. But you have to first work through their agenda.

At 3:27 PM , Blogger Dan said...

OK, I'll just through out a few thoughts that into mind:

First, I don't know what was "harsh" about your response unless there was something in the tone of voice you used. The reason for the wedding being at MCC was exactly that, they liked the MCC facility over whatever facility their home church uses.

Next, and I don't want to be goofy about this, but a case in point- yesterday some friends were passing through town and stopped by to see me. I was at the office so they came by the church. After greeting each other one of my friends asked, "Is this your church?" referring to the building we were standing outside of. I quipped, "Well, this is the building our church meets in." My friend then wondered who owned the building. Realizing that I had confused her, I quickly corrected myself and told her, that yes this is our church. Still, is the building the church despite our use of the same word for the Church as the people or body of Christ and church for the building that a given congregation owns and occupies.

This leads me to a third thought. Can the church decide to rent out it's facilities or are the facilities so connected to the church that what goes on with the building must be missional or ministry related?

Your comments just get me to thinking again about these things.

At 7:28 PM , Blogger donnjohnson said...

Dan, like a slice of pie, when you commit facilities to an outside use, those facilites are taken away from othe ministry use. It also diverts the time of staff who coordinate and lead the wedding. The caterers and prop people did not pull out of the facility till after 11pm, meaning there was little time except Sunday morning to be sure everything was in place. It comes down to ministry priorities: is this a cash stream, hospitality, or ministry? What about when they really don't want you around because they come as a complete church? How do you minister there? It is a fascinating discussion.

At 8:02 PM , Blogger Dan said...

It is a fascinating discussion. And your points are well taken.

I do also see the Chruch's facilities as first of all for the purposes of the congregations ministries and mission.

And then there is the idea of "sacred space."

At 2:08 AM , Blogger mackyton said...

I am getting married soon at one of event venues and want to have elegant arrangements there. It will be really best to hire a wedding planner that will manage everything best there. Just need to find one soon in budget.


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