Marriage in the Shrivenham & Ashbury Benefice
Our Policy and Practice
We uphold the traditional teaching of the Church about marriage, that it is gift of God in
creation and a means of grace and that it should always be undertaken as a lifelong
We are delighted to marry couples that come to us requesting a marriage service, on the understanding that:
a) It is a legal requirement that at least one of the couple lives or has a place of residence in one of the parishes or at least one of the couple is a regular worshipper [at least twice a month] at one of the parish churches and has their name on the Electoral Roll.
b) Or one of the couple meets one of the following criteria;
• one of them was baptised or prepared for confirmation in the parish;
• one of them has ever lived in the parish for six months or more;
• one of them has at any time regularly [more than twice a month] attended public worship in the parish for six months or more;
• one of their parents has lived in the parish for six months or more in their child’s lifetime;
• one of their parents has regularly [more than twice a month] attended public worship there for six months or more in their child’s lifetime;
• their parents or grandparents were married in the parish.
The couple may be asked to provide documentary proof that one of these requirements has been for filled.
c) We encourage the couple to make every effort to share in and contribute to our marriage preparation activities and worship at least once a month in the church in which they are to be married.
d) The Marriage will be conducted at a suitable time in agreement with the Incumbent between the hours of 8am & 6pm and will use only the authorized rites of the Church of England. We are at present unable to conduct marriage services in the month of August as clergy are not available, or if the incumbent is unable to guarantee that a Licensed Minister will be present to conduct the Marriage Service. Marriages cannot be conducted during Holy Week, on Easter Sunday, Pentecost Sunday, Remembrance Day / Sunday, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
We do not usually offer a marriage service to couples when one or both of them have been married before and have a former partner still living. We will, however, offer the Service of Prayer and Dedication after a Civil Marriage providing the relationship in question did not result in anyway to the breakdown of the previous marriage. The parish priest [Incumbent / Vicar] will need to see the petition for divorce and the decree absolute, before any request can be granted. They have full authority not to grant a Service of Prayer and Dedication after a Civil Marriage, if for any reason it would be inappropriate to do so. In ALL case one of the couple must be a permanent resident in the parish or on the church electoral roll.
In exceptional circumstances we are prepared to perform a marriage service for a couple when one or both of them are divorced, and have a previous partner still living providing they fulfill the requirement a) above and providing the Parish Priest [Incumbent Vicar] and the officiating priest receive assurance that:
a) The new relationship did not contribute in anyway to the breakdown of the previous marriage. The Parish Priest [incumbent / Vicar] will need to see the petition for divorce and the decree absolute, before any request can be granted.
b) Both parties understand divorce is a breach of God's will for marriage.
c) Both parties are determined to make the new marriage a lifelong, faithful partnership.
d) There is a mature understanding of why a previous marriage failed and an expression of repentance about past wrongs.
e) Appropriate arrangements have been made for any children of a previous marriage.
f) Where possible, every effort has been made to establish a good relationship with a previous marriage partner.
g) A sufficient amount of time has passed [at least 5 years] since the official ending of a previous marriage.
h) At least one of the couple is a member of our church or of a church where they will eventually settle.
i) In ALL case one of the couple must be a permanent resident in the parish or on the church electoral roll.
We affirm the conscientious right of present and future members of our clergy not to solemnize second marriages of those with a former partner still living.
Shrivenham & Ashbury Benefice Council 2008
WHAT IS BAPTISM?
Baptism is the first step along the road to becoming a Christian. We are delighted that you have decided to bring your child to take that first important step.
WHAT DO CHRISTIANS BELIEVE?
God and Creation
Christians believe in one God who brought the whole universe into existence and who is very much a part of all that goes on around us. This creator God is known as God the Father.
Christians believe that God took the astonishing step of coming to live among us to teach us how to treat one another, to identify with the whole human experience, and to show that there was life after death by rising to life having been put to death on the cross. Jesus is known as God the Son.
The Holy Spirit
Christians believe that God speaks to them through the Holy Spirit who comes to individuals and groups of people as an inspiring inner fire, as a source of comfort and reassurance, and as a means of refreshment and renewal. God the Holy Spirit can be that small voice inside you that guides you when you ask God for help.
As part of the baptism service you will be required to publicly declare that you believe in God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and to admit to your part in the wrongdoing which separates us from God.
Christians believe that God gave human beings a special place in creation. We know that wrongdoing is an unavoidable part of being human, and whilst some people show more good than others, none of us is perfect. Our wrongdoing is what spoils what was meant to be a close relationship with God by coming between him and us. It prevents us from being drawn into God's presence in this life, and in the life that Christians believe comes after death.
WHAT ELSE DO I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT BEING A CHRISTIAN?
Christianity is a world faith, and a significant proportion of the world's population is Christian. In fact more people in the world regularly go to church than watch football on TV. There are many different traditions within Christianity: Protestants, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox to name just three such traditions, but they all have the same basic beliefs and are known as Trinitarian. The Church of England (sometimes called the Anglican Church), into which your baby will be baptised, is a part of the Protestant tradition.
Central to Christian life is regular gathering together to praise God, to thank him for everything that we have and in doing so to draw closer to him. In this benefice there is a variety of worship styles which we hope will enable everyone to find something to their taste. Within worship and beyond, Christians try to find out more about God, about the truths of the Christian faith and about what those truths mean in practice. Central to this is the study of the Bible and prayer. Christians may learn on their own, in small groups, through discussions, through books, through worship …. God has numerous ways of teaching us. Private prayer is very important as well as prayer in small groups and in the main worship service. As part of the baptism service you will promise to encourage your child to take part in public Christian worship and to pray privately every day. We would suggest at first a commitment of attending a monthly family service held in several of the churches in the benefice. Then when the child is older coming along to Sunday School or one of the Children’s clubs that are held regularly in some of the churches.
The Bible encourages Christians to put their faith into action. This means loving, caring, fighting for justice, working for peace and telling people about the life, death and rising again of Jesus. This doesn't just mean through church activities, but through our social, work and family worlds strengthened and encouraged by the church fellowship.
THE BAPTISM SERVICE
You are bringing your child to the Christian church for baptism. In doing so you may be motivated by all sorts of reasons.
• You may yourself be a practising Christian and want to set your child on the same path.
• You may be going along with your family tradition of infant baptism.
• You may see the service as an opportunity to gather together as a family to give thanks to God for the safe arrival of the child.
• You may feel that baptism is necessary for a child if they are to be loved and cared for by God.
Whatever your reasons we are delighted to welcome you although you should note that God's love and care for your child is not affected one way or the other by baptism.
Ideally, when a child is brought to baptism, both parents should be baptised and confirmed, but provided one parent is baptised the baptism can go ahead. You will need to identify at least two godparents (one male and one female), who must be baptised and, preferably, confirmed and over 18. Most children will have a third godparent and some may have up to four. Bear in mind when selecting godparents that they, with you, will be making some very serious commitments.
The Church receives these children with joy.
Today we are trusting God for their growth in faith. Will you pray for them, draw them by your example into the community of faith and walk with them in the way of Christ?
1 With the help of God, we will.
In baptism these children begin their journey in faith. You speak for them today. Will you care for them, and help them to take their place within the life and worship of Christ's Church?
2 With the help of God, we will.
In baptism, God calls us out of darkness into his marvellous light. To follow Christ means dying to sin and rising to new life with him. Therefore I ask:
Do you turn to Christ?
I turn to Christ.
Do you repent of your sins?
I repent of my sins.
Do you renounce evil?
I renounce evil.
These commitments are not only very serious, but they are the foundation on which the baptism takes place so you will want to give careful thought to what they say about your own faith and your future role. You will be the prime example to your child of what it means to live life as a Christian, enabling your child to express their own faith once they are older.
There are three symbols used in the service. Water which signifies cleansing and new life; oil which is used to make the sign of the cross as the "badge of Christ" on the child's head; and a candle to mark a passing from the "darkness of wrongdoing" to the "light of forgiveness in Christ".
WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP OUR CHILD GROW AS A CHRISTIAN?
There are several ways in which you can help your child to grow in the Christian faith. You could:
• attend church regularly – a monthly family service at first
• bring your child to the church events in the benefice specifically aimed at children
• teach your child to pray by praying with them, perhaps at bedtime
• teach your child the Bible stories, perhaps reading from a Children's Bible
• teach your child the Christian messages of Christmas and Easter
• show by your example what it means to put God first, and what to live in love and peace with everyone means
How soon can a Baptism take place?
The House of Bishops guidelines state that baptisms must take place during the main act of worship on a Sunday morning with the gathered Christian congregation. Many of our churches have baptisms during their monthly family service, as this is very suitable for families and children. Private baptisms can only take place in exceptional pastoral circumstances. We ask all people enquiring about baptism to come along to a Sunday service at the church they hope the baptism will take place in and introduce yourselves to the minister. They will then make an appointment to visit you at home and talk further with you about baptism and give you a video to watch. A date for the baptism will then be set which will probably be two or three months later. You will need to attend church several times during this period and join in a baptism preparation session were you will learn more about the commitment you will be making as parents to your child.
This may all seem very daunting particularly if you have not had much previous association with a church. But help is at hand. Your ministers are always pleased to hear from anyone who wishes to know more. Furthermore, there are seven churches in this group, all of whom will be delighted to welcome you to a service and show you the ropes.
You will find details of the services in the parish magazines "The Parish News” [Shrivenham area] and “Newsletter” [Ashbury area] there are also special services for children, and a children's club, which meets regularly. You don't have to go to the church in your own village if the service does not suit you. We are lucky to have the opportunity to worship at any of the six churches which has the sort of service we like at a time that suits us.
…. AND FINALLY….
If, having read this and spoken to one of the ministers that you cannot, with integrity, make the commitments required of you for a baptism service then the service of Thanksgiving for the Gift of a Child may be more appropriate. In this service we thank God for the child, and we ask for God's blessing on the child and on the family. Supporting friends are encouraged to be a part of the service. The Thanksgiving service is not a baptism service but it may be an appropriate first step towards Holy Baptism. It gives the family an opportunity to gather together to celebrate, and give thanks to God for the birth of the child. It acknowledges that most people want to recognise the miracle of new life by thanking God but that for some the baptism service is inappropriate. The Thanksgiving service can be a private celebration in your own home, or a public celebration in church.