Has any other time in recent history put such a strain on relationships, families, and marriages as this time of the pandemic? With job losses, illnesses, the demands on front-line workers, those who are working and schooling from home, and the stress of wider injustices, families and couples are continuously battered by outside forces that can worsen already existing interior fractures. How does a married couple faithfully live out the vows of “for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death” when the times are for worse, for poorer, in sickness, and under the threat of death?
Married couples need the support of the church more than ever and that support doesn’t have to come from necessarily huge gestures. Coming alongside people in their daily lives and reminding them of how God’s hope and love meets them where they are at is one way to support and strengthen marriages. The church can help couples live out and remember their vows, especially during difficult circumstances.
One church, Advent Lutheran in Olathe, KS, is doing just that by holding an at-home vow renewal during their online worship service on Sunday, February 14. The pastoral staff at Advent shares the inspiration behind this as, “embracing the wider culture when it aligns with the church and putting it into context.” The staff at Advent want to, “plant a seed of what is possible” when the church and culture come together.
To prepare, this past week, Advent sent out an invitation via email for couples to take part in an at-home vow renewal. Before the service, vows will be emailed out and be made accessible for those who want to have something to read along with at home. Couples are encouraged to dress up and take photos to share on social media and remember the celebration.
As the Advent pastoral team continues to work out details, other churches that may consider holding a similar renewal of vows can use these suggestions to create their own event.
- Email and post on social media an invitation to the vow renewal.
- Prepare to email and post the vows that will be used ahead of time.
- For the vows, use language of “I renew”.
- Consider placing the vow exchange before the passing of the peace, and then ending with the peace by inviting couples to kiss.
The inspiration behind placing the vow renewal before the peace is to offer peace, hope, and love as a breath of fresh air in a stressful and depressing time for the world. This event brings love and hope to life for people and gives couples in the church a chance to invite friends and family who may not regularly attend to join in at their own homes. By giving people time to prepare, couples also have something special and out of the ordinary to look forward to in a reality in which many of our usual choices and options to celebrate are limited.
The team at Advent hopes that this event will help couples strengthen their connection. They shared, “In this very difficult time, it’s nice to hear your partner say ‘I still love you.’ It’s important to remind a depressed world about love. Love. That’s the message we want to share.”
Consider using the ideas from Advent’s vow renewal in your community. Here’s a resource from the ELCA that can help.