Weddings - Headache or Hospitality? - Issue #90
Stillwater United Methodist Church is a multi-campus congregation in Dayton, Ohio. In 2008 they launched Stillwater on Miller Lane using the building of a recently closed church. Like many places in Ohio, Dayton had experienced the effects of the economic recession and many in this once middle-class community were facing unemployment. In particular, young people were caught in the economic downturn.
The church began immediately to look for ways to connect to the community by introducing a number of outreach ministries, including a free breakfast on Sunday mornings.
One of their more recent endeavors is setting aside two Saturdays during the year for free weddings. In August 2010, five couples were married in the church sanctuary by Rev. Marie Smith. She also provided pre-marital counseling for each couple.
Starting at 10:00 a.m. they set aside two-hour blocks for each of the five services. The first hour is used for the set-up for each ceremony and at the start of the second hour the service is held. Some couples hold a reception fellowship hall afterwards at their own expense.
The church provides free music, sound, wedding coordination and pastoral care. Working with merchants in the area, the church helps to secure flowers, cakes, and even free photography for each wedding. Rev. Smith says, "We treat each couple as special and unique. We want them to have every opportunity to have God at the center of the day and their marriage. And we feel that starts with our radical hospitality."
The wedding ministry also provides the congregation an opportunity to introduce Stillwater on Miller Lane to all the families and friends who come to the weddings. Besides the great ministry to the newlyweds, the free weddings bring hundreds of people into the church who would never come to know them in any other way.
Some Questions for Discussion
- Are the wedding policies and procedures for your congregation designed to help people experience the love of God and the radical hospitality of the congregation?
- What is your congregation doing that makes it visible to the wider community beyond the normal activities of church life?