Weddings ministry thrives across diocese

CHURCHES in the Oxford Diocese are bucking a national trend as couples queue up to tie the knot in our historic buildings.

A happy couple enjoy the picturesque surroundings at St Nicholas Church, Wasing in Berkshire. Photo: Studio Rouge

Recent research by the national Church shows that couples are positive about saying their vows in a sacred place where people have been doing the same before them for hundreds of years. The research will be explored in detail on March 13 at a national CE conference entitled Engaging the Engaged. Nationally, church weddings declined by 10  percent between 2011 and 2016 with the Oxford Diocese seeing a decline of 13 percent in that time period.

The Door talked to three of the many parishes across the Thames Valley where a welcoming and joined up approach has had positive results. In Wasing, Berkshire, the partnership between St Nicholas Church and the Wasing Estate, which includes a reception venue is a huge success. “The sense of purpose the wedding ministry has given our church community has been phenomenal,” says Joshua Dugdale, of Wasing  Estate. “People might come and enquire about a civil ceremony, but they then go for a church wedding and before you know it, they are turning up to church services. Wasing is full to the rafters with people of all ages.”

Sam Cave’s job as weddings administrator for the Benefice was created because of demand for weddings in Aldermaston and Wasing. “We have four parishes, but between Aldermaston and Wasing alone we have between 45 and 48 weddings every year. We have a great relationship with Wasing Park.”

When the Rt Revd John Went retired as Bishop of Tewkesbury, he received Permission to Officiate and became part of the clergy team in the Chenies and Little Chalfont, Latimer and Flaunden Benefice in Buckinghamshire.

Bishop John was told to expect two to three weddings per year. But a welcoming approach, and working with a nearby hotel reception venue, has seen that number increase to 23.

“The organisers in the hotel now ask people who are looking for a secular wedding if they would like a church wedding. If they say yes, then the organisers recommend they come and have a chat.”

Often, he will dispel myths, particularly for people who have been divorced and those with children, about church weddings. “Couples have to attend church before we marry them, but on the first Sunday of the month is a relaxed, informal, all-age service and that’s the one they usually come to.”

The Revd Ginny Thomas, the Vicar of the Great Tew Benefice in Oxfordshire, had also seen an increase due to the nearby Soho Farmhouse, which is often used as a wedding venue.

“I was told to expect to do two or three weddings a year, but I did 13, including wedding blessings. We don’t have a huge population in Great Tew, but it’s the nearby Soho Farmhouse that people use as a venue for their receptions. We had seven in 2017 and I have around that number booked in for this year.”

Engaging the Engaged takes place  Solihull on March 13.