Choosing not to officiate … for a very good reason

This last weekend I got to see my best friend from undergraduate days. I saw his oldest son get married and I preached at his church on Sunday. Here is my friend’s weekly congregational note to his church family. What an interesting, clear explanation to his congregation of why he does not officiate at his own children’s weddings. He spent 20 years as a chaplain in the Army, during which time he was often away from his wife and children…

Life is full of choices. This past Saturday our oldest son, Philip, was married. As I write this, he and his bride Jessica are enjoying a honeymoon trip to Colorado. As the wedding approached I was asked by more than one person whether or not I would be performing the wedding ceremony. Because this is the fifth wedding of one of our children, I have come to expect the question. I explained that I would not be conducting the ceremony.

While I have been privileged to officiate at numerous weddings of family members, prior to the first wedding involving our own children, I made a decision. I decided that I would not conduct the wedding ceremonies of our children. I tried to explain to the children my rationale. I know many other pastor-fathers who choose to officiate the weddings of their children and I have no issue with those who do.

My decision had to do with honoring my own marriage vows. During the almost 36 years of marriage to the wife of my youth, my pastoral calling has often been demanding. In particular, the years we spent as an Army family meant that my duties as a pastor often altered the rhythms of our family life. Marcia carried the load of two parents on all too many occasions. I missed birthdays and anniversaries and graduations and ball games and many other family celebrations because I was somewhere else (often half-way around the world) while she cared for and nurtured our family. Even if I was at home during holidays, I often had duty responsibilities that called me away on Thanksgiving or Christmas or other holidays.

With God as my witness, Marcia never once complained. She always took it in stride as part of the realities of a pastor’s family. We have always understood that the ministry is “ours.” She would not do it without me, and I could not do it without her! So my intention is to honor her and our marriage vows (in some measure) by being at her side as our children are married.

Nothing is more satisfying than walking our daughters down the aisle, speaking the words “her mother and I” then, after placing the brides hand into the hand of her groom, taking my seat next to Marcia and taking her hand in mine.

As our sons have taken their wives it is my honor to sit with their mother and share together the joy of witnessing them begin married life. There are any number of pastors who can perform wedding ceremonies; only one man can be the father of the bride or the father of the groom on that very special day. Only one man can sit next to Marcia and understand all she has sacrificed so our children could reach responsible adulthood.

Life is full of choices. It is also full of promises. Sometimes the promises we made long ago shape the choices we make today. I have often told our sons, I hope they can be twice as good a husband as I have been. And I tell them that if their wives turn out to be half as good a wife as their mother has been, that they will be blessed beyond all measure. I cannot thank God enough for what Marcia has meant and continues to mean to me as godly wife, mother of our children and faithful partner in the gospel ministry. She has lived out Proverbs 31:27-29 “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children arise and call her blessed;her husband also, and he praises her:’Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.'”

As our children marry, I am honored to be their father, but there is one higher, human honor–being Marcia’s husband. Blessings, Pastor John

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