Scripture has it that “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh (Gen 2:24, Mark 10:7).” Based on this fundamental teaching, couples make it their mission to ensure that their commissioning into marriage is done by the custodians of religious teachings, the clergy, at the alter.
The making of a marriage in its entirety is faced with many difficulties and challenges. Some can be easily handled where as others challenge the integral belief system of the couples involved. One such an issue of significance is regarding whether or not to carry out a marriage ceremony in the church. One would also wonder why most weddings are cemented at the alter as opposed to the seemingly depreciating practice of simply standing before the magistrate with a friend and family member from both sides. It is worth noting that marriage is one of the key institutions that God introduced right in the begining.
It is interesting to realise that apart from the renown receptions and other dinners, the church service and the practices that come with it have existed for many centuries and continue to be practiced emphatically by most newly weds. Why is it necessary to walk down the spiritual aisle as opposed to any other? What significance does it come with? And if any, what does the couple expect to take into the marriage from marrying in the church, in short, why marry before the eyes of God?
We spoke to a renowned clergy who shared with us his theological perspective on these fundamental issues.
While for some this topic is an obvious one, some together with their partners who may well be of the same religious background eliminate the need for queries on whether or not to take the route of the church. But for others, these are sensitive issues of significance that border on family ordeals and commonality with regards to views on what and how to go about a wedding. The recognised religious bodies in Namibia acknowledge that marriage is a very important element of life. Father Lasarus Ngube, the Rector of St. Mary`s Anglican Church says, “Marriage by divine institution is a lifelong and exclusive union and partnership between one man and one woman.” He emphasises however that there lays a difference between marriage and a wedding, as opposed to synchronising these two concepts that he views as vastly different.
For those who are already members of a given local church, the significance of marrying in a church is exhibited in the fact that the church considers it a requirement for all members that intend on marrying or getting married to go the church’s way. “It is a requirement. Not because it is a law, but because marriage is public. When we became Christian, we became members of the body of Christ, the Church – we are a family, a community and even more so, a community of the New Covenant. Vows are publicly made and witnessed by fellow christian believers who value marriage and of the same principles. Couples will also need the support of fellow christian believers,” said Ngube.
This family perspective is demonstrated in the manner in which the church offers a platform to continuously assist couples when dealing with various issues of the married life that they may find a challenge once they are administered into the institution. Some churches have made it a prerogative for members to exclusively be entitled to a couple that is more senior than them, thus allowing them to consult from these matrons or patrons of marriage whenever they feel the need to do so.
The uniqueness of a marriage that takes this route is seen even more considering the nature of lessons that couples undergo as a form of counselling before the actual marriage. These are teachings that are said to combine a touch of modernity with the spiritual requirements. By this, vices such as gender based violence are called out and replaced with an expression of love that is more biblically inclined. Pastor Ngube says “There are syllabi that must be followed, but consideration would be made accordingly.
For instance, there are couples who have been living under the same roof already for a long time. Also, there are couples coming from different cultural backgrounds, etcetera. However the Christian Fundamental Principles of Marriage will not be compromised in either case. Some of the issues touched on are: Understanding Marriage and God`s original plan for marriage; Communication and Conflict management; Parenting; Wealth and Finances; Principles of a Christian marriage and Spirituality; Death and dying and much more…
Annette Ndjadila, a Counsellor says the idea is all about “Security”; she notes that in all aspects of looking at marriage – its’ ceremonies and all that comes with – are a form of assurance to the bride that she is indeed the only one. This significant position is what is solidified by the use of the ring. It is customary that a man dedicates his marriage to God, in the presence of his family and friends and is indeed willing and ready to travel on the road of commitment with one woman. This security is exhibited even in the eventuality of death where the church is able to stand behind a deceased spouse knowing very well that that individual was acknowledged as betrothed to the late person. She elaborates that this also solidifies relations with family that must recognise the prominence of the main-woman. And generally, she notes that God blesses a union before Him.
The clergy states that the church does not necessarily oppose the holding of functions of a traditional set-up when ushering in a couple into marriage. In his words “When getting married three big pillars or entities need to be considered. The first is Church, followed by Family, and thirdly the Government. If the traditional wedding is just a normal social function that does not contradict the Scripture; it would not be a problem. But as soon as there are elements of contradiction to Scriptures (such as ancestral worship, etc.); then flatly such is not welcome,” Ngube concludes. He quotes from 2 Corinthians 6:14 – 18 which instructs believers to abstain from vices that may corrupt their Christian morals and values.
This is summed up in the book of Ephesians 6:21-33 which reads that “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord; for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church… So also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the church… In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies.
He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.”
By Stephen Nyoni