I hope you are all well and are enjoying the sunshine and the bit of warmth.
I mentioned last week that I would write about the significant changes that are shortly to take place around marriages in Church. We will still be calling Banns, the formal public notice of a marriage, for 3 Sundays and have to be satisfied that the couples meet the requirements to get married in Daresbury Church. This includes checking their identity and nationality, and making sure they are legally qualified to get married here.
But from 4<sup>th</sup> May we will no longer be recording a marriage in the official Marriage Registers we have in Church, nor will we be able to give the couple a marriage certificate on the day. That will now be done by the Civil Registrar in the Registry Office in Runcorn Town Hall. Nor for that matter will be able to issue marriage certificates at any point in the future. We will have to create what is going to be called a marriage document, which when completed, the couple or a friend will be legally required to take to the Town Hall within a specified period of time.
At least some of this can be done electronically which is a small mercy but there is still a considerable amount of paperwork involved at a time when we clergy really want to give our pastoral attention to the couple. At the moment I reckon it takes about 30 mins to write out all the 4 sets of documents, which should really only be done immediately after the marriage has happened. Realistically we do it the day before to save time on the day. Woe betide you if you make a mistake – there’s a lot more writing to do!
Why is all this necessary? It is true that there have been abuses of the marriage process in some parts of the country, not here in Daresbury I hasten to add! Marriage used to grant certain citizenship/nationality rights although that has been tightened up in recent years with our being required to check someone’s passport or photocard driving licence, but we have no idea as to whether what is presented is genuine or not. I don’t know why it wasn’t agreed for the whole of the marriage preliminary process to be done by the civil registrars first as is done in Scotland, Northern Ireland and, for example, France. Leaving the EU hasn’t helped either as you no longer have a legal right to get married in this country without going through yet more hoops, but that’s for others to sort out.
As I have said all this starts on 4<sup>th</sup> May. Clergy across the country were given very little notice – it all came about just before Easter. There is a training course available which to be frank is virtually incomprehensible. More training will be available from next week and Gill and I are booked in. No one has seen the new marriage documents/schedules, and the marriage register produced by Church House Publishing for the parish’s pastoral records is not being published until the end of the month.
We’ll get things sorted out, but it will take some time. In the meantime please remember in your prayers those (7 couples) who are getting married here this year. They’ve had the plans torn up and rewritten a number of times thanks to COVID. Please pray also for Alison (Upton) who helps Gill and I organise our weddings.
Gill has already sent out tomorrow’s service sheet, but a further copy is attached just in case you’ve missed it.
With God’s blessing,