AKRON, Ohio (TNS) — When the Rev. Kent Wartick preached about Christian marriage during his sermon Sunday morning at Faith Lutheran Church in Kent, Ohio, congregants didn’t have to look far for a real-life example.
Minutes earlier, newlyweds Justin and Stephanie Mason had opted to forgo the usual pomp and circumstance of many modern weddings. Instead, they exchanged vows at the start of the church’s weekly 10:45 Sunday morning worship service.
Afterward, the couple sat in the pews with family, friends and fellow churchgoers to worship together during their first Sunday service as husband and wife.
What better way to celebrate a match made in heaven than during a weekly church service?
“This is very much them,” said the bride’s mother, Janet Waidelich of San Diego. “It’s what they wanted.”
Justin Mason, 31, and the former Stephanie Waidelich met in 2007 while pursuing their master’s degrees in the trombone program at Pennsylvania State University.
When the couple got engaged this past summer, he asked his fiancee what type of wedding she’d like.
“This might sound crazy,” she responded, “but I think it would be pretty neat to do it on Sunday.”
She remembered seeing in the Lutheran Service Book that the Rite of Holy Matrimony was designed for use at the beginning of a worship service.
“I just think that the really neat thing about marriage and Christian marriage, the reason it’s really special, is the relationship between us parallels the relationship between Christ and the church,” she said. “What better way to begin?”
Not surprisingly, her soon-to-be husband felt the same way.
He’s a first-year student at Concordia Seminary, a theological school of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in Fort Wayne, Ind.
“We want the emphasis on Jesus, on the cross,” he said.
Wartick, a minster since 1986, has performed many weddings and led hundreds of Sunday worship services _ just never at the same time.
“They approached me and I thought, ‘That’s a great idea,’” he said. “They wanted to do something that wasn’t so much a show, but a worship service.”
Rather than walking down the aisle to “Hear Comes the Bride,” the bride clutched the groom’s hand as they followed the crucifer and pastor into the sanctuary while singing the processional hymn, “Oh Morning Star, How Fair and Bright.”
At the end of the brief ceremony, the congregation applauded as the newlyweds kissed and hugged.
During the worship service that followed, Wartick talked about how a Christian marriage is more than a legal contract.
“Marriage is the sacred covenant between one man, one woman and one God,” he said. “Unlike a contract, Christian marriage is unconditional. Christian marriage is not just ‘As long as you make me happy,’ or just ‘for better.’”
Church member Mary Voelker said seeing a wedding during the weekly worship service was uplifting.
“It’s just nice to see love still lives,” she said.