I’m not sure the post office will be overly troubled when it comes to delivering valentine’s cards to the vicarage; no need to put on extra staff or hire a couple of vans to handle the volume. The number of cards I’m expecting to write – and hoping to receive – is exactly one. (No more, no less.)
The origins of St Valentine’s Day are a bit obscure. Wikipedia tells me that there may have been more than one early Christian saint named Valentinus. The most famous story is of a Valentine in Rome who, when Christians were being persecuted for their faith, performed weddings for Roman soldiers who were forbidden to marry. This Valentine was executed for his crimes and sent a farewell letter to the daughter of his jailer (whom he had healed), signing it “your Valentine”.
We’ve come a long way from the death of a Christian martyr to the Hallmark festival of cards, teddies, balloons and chocolate. As it happens, this year St Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday. But it also happens to be the First Sunday of Lent, so all those chocolates (and the prosecco) should be put away until Easter… My guess is that not many of us will be able to do that.
Given that St Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday, I have decided to invite all the couples who are planning weddings at St Matthew’s to come to the church that afternoon. I’m not sure how many will be able to do so. I was told that they have probably all got other plans… It also falls in the school half-term holiday, so that may take a few away. But some couples have already replied to say that they will be able to join us, so it is definitely going ahead! Some are bringing parents, bridesmaids and best men, too. What I would like to do is to welcome them all to the church with refreshments (maybe even something sparkly to drink, if someone would be kind enough to donate a few bottles!) and help them to feel at home. Often those who book weddings with us are not very familiar with the church and find the place a bit daunting, especially when they are nervous about their special day. This will give them chance to make themselves feel at home, and the opportunity to ask questions. Often wedding couples email me to ask things like how many pews there are (so they know how many pew ends to order) and where the bridesmaids will sit. This valentine’s afternoon will enable them to familiarise themselves with the building and think about those all-important decorations and seating plans.
I’m hoping that those who are involved with weddings will be represented – the choir and bell ringers, for example. I’ve booked the organist (the one I’m hoping to get a valentine’s card from) and asked her to play the Bridal Chorus and Wedding March for people to hear. Mind you, that will probably make them (and her) even more nervous! It would be good to have a number of regular worshippers there too, to chat with couples and their families, and express the church’s welcome.
If you are able to join us, we will be in church at 3:00PM on St Valentine’s Day (that’s 14th February, if you weren’t sure).
The other thing I’ve done, which I know used to happen at St Matthew’s and which I think is a great idea, is to ask couples to let me have a photograph of themselves. I’m planning to put these up at the back of church so that the congregation can see who it is that is getting married. When you see the photos I hope you will spend a moment to pray for them and for all who are preparing to be married.
“The course of true love never did run smooth” and all of us face challenges in our relationships with one another. Those who are to be married need our prayers and our support. The Beatles summed up the 1960s with their anthem “All You Need Is Love”. But Saint Paul the Apostle said it first, following the life and example of Jesus: there are three things that have eternal significance. They are faith, hope and love.
And the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:3)
Love from …