Thursday, 18 September 2008

Weddings at the Hammer House of Horror

What a day!

Today I was supposed to go to a day about weddings with Ross - who was going to drive. Unfortunately, Ross was ill, so couldn't come. He did, however, give me some vague instructions... so I set off with a vague idea, a partially printed map and a great deal of hope. I did not, however, have either a map or a satnav since these were both in Isla's car - somewhere in Wales...

I got to roughly the right place in fairly good time. I was a little late, but not two badly. Unfortunately, knowing roughly where I was going was not really enough! I drove back and forth, round in circles, between Princes Risbrough, Great Missenden and the Hampdens. I discovered some amazing narrow lanes and idyllic back streets of south bucks. No-one I spoke to could offer me any advice and my phone refused to function.

After an hour or so of this, I was about ready to give up, but, as a loyal diocesan boy, I decided to have one more try... so I found myself in Wendover in the public library. The nice lady didn't know where I was going either but she did find me a map - which to my great delight had "Hampden House" marked on it. Hooray!

So back in the car I got and drove on the most dirrect route - which turned out to be a single track road through some interesting farms, woods and rural corners - and eventually found the spot on the map where my location was meant to be.

Alas - I still couldn't see it! After driving backwards and forwards a couple of times, I decided to have a closer look at a farm gate with a vague sign on it. To my delight, the sign said "Hampden House" although it looked strangely closed. As I drove closer, however, it opened up magically itself - was this place twinned with Hogwarts?

And so, finally, I arrived at my location. The amazing Hampden House - as used in the Hammer Horror movies... just in time for lunch...

Great place - and a really interesting event.

The day was put on by the Wedding project, a Church of England group looking at how we might develop our work with couples. We were introduced to some of the new rules, and some wonderful new resources.

The key theme to the day seems to have been "Yes we can!" - an appeal to us as Anglican clergy to be more positive and welcoming in our approach to weddings.

In fact, statistics show that we are already really good at first contact and in the way we perform weddings. Couples generally give us ten out of ten for the way we help them through the process, which is really good news! It seems, however, that we could do better on our follow up and it was suggested that we could improve this by sending out first anniversary cards - which I think is a really good idea.

The other suggestion of note was that couples (who have generally been together for a few years) don't want "marriage preparation" or lengthy courses - but do want a wedding seminar ("a space to think") with other couples and their vicar - focussed on the service and the meaning of this, rather than on conflict resolution and relationships. This was interesting because it confirms the suspicion that Mike and I have had over the past couple of years which we have used to develop our own wedding prep afternoons. In fact it would suggest that we should focus these more on the service and less on communications - I suspect the island map may need to go...

We were given a rough outline of a wedding event based on this model, but I think it could be improved. All good stuff though and much to learn from...

I had to leave early - to get back to a wedding rehearsal - but couldn't resist asking a question.

"Can I go now?" I asked from the back.

"Yes you can" the crowd replied.

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