Weddings have become a billion-dollar industry, while recent years have seen dramatic shifts in attitudes toward marriage. Presbyterian pastor Kimberly Bracken Long suggests that these cultural changes have left pastors confused and frustrated about their role—and the role of the church—in weddings. She wrote From This Day Forward—Rethinking the Christian Wedding (Westminster John Knox Press) as a way to offer guidance to pastors and provide a foundational understanding of marriage for today’s church.
Long writes, “To varying degrees, churches are asking questions about the meaning of marriage, the church’s role in the weddings of Christians and non-Christians alike, and how to navigate faithfully through the swift currents and shifting tides of American life.” Long writes that her book emerged out of trying to answer the question: Should the church get out of the wedding business? She argues that the church should back away from the wedding business but stay in the marriage business.
Long reviews current sociological analyses of marriage and the history of Christian marriage rites. She also examines classic biblical metaphors for marriage, arguing that the church rethink and expand the range of scriptural sources that inform our understanding of marriage. She takes a close look at each element of the marriage liturgy and provides practical suggestions for music and Scripture during wedding services.
“This work has convinced me that the church has something to say about marriage, both for those who profess Christ and for those who do not,” Long writes. “We offer a vision of marriage that is life-giving—one in which couples practice forgiveness as a daily habit, value the interests of the other above one’s own in an economy of mutuality, and seek to be agents of compassion and justice to those around them.”
From This Day Forward—Rethinking the Christian Wedding is now available.
Kimberly Bracken Long is Associate Professor of Worship at Columbia Theological Seminary in Decatur, Georgia. She is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and a leading expert in liturgy. Long is the coeditor of Inclusive Marriage Services: A Wedding Sourcebook, editor of the Feasting on the Word Worship Companion series, and author of The Worshiping Body: The Art of Leading Worship, all published by Westminster John Knox Press.