As the dust settles – the Marathon Wedding and the rearrangement of geography

Marathon-marriage_1391824c I have still to edit and post the film I shot butI thought it better to do the summary now.

Garry and Rachel are members of my parish church. Garry is a fireman so has the fitness levels to run marathon's for charity. He had already run 5. Rachel had never run one before.  They hatched the idea of getting married on the Marathon. The original idea was the entire wedding party complete with priest to carry out the ceremony as the marathon proceeded.  Church/registry regulations couldn't even start to take this on board. Next stop was to ask churches on the route if they would host the wedding part way. And they got several flat refusals. Because according to ecclesiastical law you have to be resident in the parish or at least on the electoral roll of the church. This is an archaic way to detect and deter bigamy but in these enlightened days so much of his regulation just serves as a smokescreen to confuse people and to give recalcitrant clergy the excuse to say – can't be done.

In 2004 a working party in the Church of England published a report called the Mission Shaped church. In which an entire chapter is given to addressing the issue that geography is increasingly irrelevant. Problematic for a church which is distributed according to geographical territories (parishes) and where priests used to be given the 'freehold' which means just that. All Church of England activity in that territory required the say so of the priest with the freehold.  The report suggests that this right of freehold should no longer be absolute so in effect starts to dissolve parish boundaries.

Trainers So in the light of churches turning my friends' wedding plans down on the grounds that they didn't live there, the Marathon seemed to me to me an interesting test case. What if the couple concerned were registered already with a parish church (St Cuthberts Rye Park) and were literally running through the parish for a few minutes. Surely this would be an excellent test case of the dissolving of parish boundaries. Which was the point I made after a couple of networking phone calls which got me to Rev George Pitcher curate at St Brides church who put it to the Rector David Meara.  George Pitcher has another identity – he ran his own PR agency for many years and wrote a column for Marketing Week. The long and the short of it is that Garry and Rachel ran the first 23 miles of the London Marathon, came off the course just after the Unileve building at Blackfri
ars, ran up to St Brides in Fleet street where the wedding took place.  And then they ran back onto the course to finish the marathon in St James Park – and we all gathered for a drink in Victoria afterwards.

I am sure that the Marathon organisers must have got involved in the publicity but George Pitcher must take a lot of the credit. The story was the lead Marathon story for several of the dailies: Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, Sun, Star, and Evening Standard. Channel 4 filmed the whole thing as part of a documentary they are showing next year about the first year of married life for 5 couples. This was the first wedding conducted in church which had ever taken place on the Marathon (there was a registry office wedding in 2005). A great example of dissolving boundaries and a church on the move.

As a postscript – St Brides gave free rein for photos and filming with one caveat. No recordings of their church musicians – performing rights society regulations. The singers were indeed stunning. And their rights were respected. Everything else will find its way into the public domain – their singing of Rutter's anthem the Lord Bless you and Keep you and the gospel anthem oh Happy Day will remain only in the memories of those who were there. Which is I reckon their loss. 

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