It's true that the building we occupy is not large (we have but the one room) but that merely means that everything we have is used to the full. There are no rooms reserved for 'best' here - what we have is versatile and pretty well utilised (eucharist - room change - tea. coffee and lunch - room changes again and .....) all the time as we do services, social stuff, community stuff, kid's club, support groups, stuff for then older folk, crafts, courses and more besides in the one room (we have no choice).
Add to the one room aspect of the building the fact that it's not a 'proper' church building and you will understand why we don't get people asking to get married here. See for yourself:
In fact a few years back, one of our near neighbours decided to get married and they did so in the wonderful building that houses the parish church. Another couple just up the road from us decided to get married in the pretty little village church building round the corner and this is the pattern for those who decide on a church wedding (a small number in a growing market in that we have some 30% of the wedding business these days). They want the pretty buildings for their big day and that's fair enough, after all they want a good backdrop for the photo's and stuff.
My 'problem' comes in the fact that all too often people will tell me that I should do the wedding in their church if they come from my patch because of the 'pastoral engagement' and it is here that I will find that my real struggle begins.
After all, it's a fair (empirically sound) assumption that those who marry in St Blogspots will also have their sprogs baptised in the same place, as they assume it's 'their church' - an assumption that is not supported by attendance or any semblance of relationship with the church (meaning the people) or the clergy but is based purely upon it having been the venue for a wedding. In fact they may even come to the same building when death comes a knocking on that same assumption.
And this is good - but it means that those who have the attractive, wedding rich church buildings have to realise that they also have the privilege (and duty) of engaging and building relationships with the couple, introducing them to Jesus, the Christ, and continuing that relationship (as best they may) once the wedding day has passed. They, having become 'in loco parentis' to the emerging family have a duty to pastor and pray for them. They are happy to collect the cash and do the deed, but there is much, much, much* more to it than that.
If we provide a building without discharging our duty then as much as this is wrong, that is your choice, but having provided the venue - you need to also provide the pastoral and spiritual input that goes with it in the before, during and after phases.
I have spoken to a few couples (seven of them to be accurate) with the result that 100% of the population 'enjoyed' the day but were not minded to be engaged with Church again on a regular basis. The reasons for this were that they regarded what they had was not spiritual but all about the venue and that they 'weren't religious' but wanted a nicer building than ............ (names omitted to avoid venue wars!). They didn't want 'church' and even though. 'The service was nice and the Vicar made us laugh,' it wasn't what they wanted after the event. 'But it was a nice day!'
Having been brought up with the understanding that the occasional offices (AKA: hatch, match and dispatch) were a source of engagement and potential growth. My experience is that this is not the case (we don't do many baptisms or funerals outside of those with whom we have relationships or are perhaps members) but find that we grow quite consistently through real engagement and the making of friendships.
I've written this to clarify some of the issues that came up in a conversation with a colleague who thought that, as they had a popular building, the local clergy should come and take the services for those 'from their patch'. At first I wasn't sure about it, but having given it some time (and thought) I have to say, 'Nah, crack on with it!' (or perhaps that should be, 'No thanks old bean, you carry on doing them in your building - you book them, you cook them!'). Your wanting to advertise and attract people to your buildings for weddings is a great thing to be doing - and if you are successful at it (and enjoy the wedding fayres and the conjugal/matrimonial consumer fests) - crack on and reap the blessings that are to be found within it.
As for me, I'll stick to funerals - something I find much more rewarding pastorally and more effective evangelistically!
*sorry rampant Police Academy gene issues this morning