I officiated at the wedding of a young adult and his fiancee a couple weeks ago. I’ve known this young man since he was a preschooler because I was his pastor and the mom of his best friend. The boys grew up together in Church going to Preschool, Vacation Bible School, and Confirmation Class.
He’s not a church person now, although he has an appreciation for Christianity His fiancee also grew up in Church.
So when we talked about their wedding ceremony, I asked him what he remembers about his church experiences that he might like to include in their wedding liturgy. I was thinking about favorite scriptures or songs or prayers. He immediately said, “Yes, definitely. I would like everybody to light candles like we used to do on Christmas Eve.”
I should not have been surprised. Christmas Eve Candlelight services are among the most beautiful of traditions. And everybody gets a candle. And everybody gets to participate. And everybody is warmed by the light.
And so we had a candle lighting at B & L’s wedding, and it was lovely. At the end of the service, I lighted the bride and groom’s candles and they lighted the candles held around them until everybody’s candle was aflame. And then we blessed the newly married couple together.
It’s not just true for children and youth. Spiritual practices that involve sights and smells and tastes and feelings are among the most memorable in our worshiping communities. My favorite memories from the church of my childhood and youth include the taste of the grape juice and the feeling of kneeling in the soft white Confirmation dress my mother made. I remember sliding along the wooden pews and passing the smooth round offering plate. Tastes. Feelings. Smells.
What memory making are we doing in our churches? Even if your congregation doesn’t have children, there are adults who appreciate the smell of fresh communion bread and the sight of Chrismons on the sanctuary tree.
The sounds of organ music or drums or guitars with songs and hymns and babies crying and preached words and prayed prayers are all meaningful for many of us. But God’s children will remember mostly how they felt in Church: warm, welcomed, included, safe – perhaps by candlelight.