as the actress said to the bishop...
what's more scary than meeting the parents? yep, meeting the minister. Sunday saw Mrs stilt-to-be and I drive down to the Southern Highlands to go to church, and then have lunch with the minister who is going to marry us early next year. Now, apart from weddings and christenings, it'd be fair to say that it's a while since I've been to church. Luckily, it was largely as I remembered it - lots of old people, a handful of earnest looking parents and bored children, and one slightly startled and badly hung-over stilt. The old blokes look resplendent in their suit jackets and sports coats - I felt a bit sorry for them since it was pushing 30C outside, and was no cooler inside despite the valiant attempts of a couple of small fans to evenly distributed the hot air around the building. The church itself is quite stunning - an old sandstone number with stained glass windows and exposed wooden beams, the perfect setting for a wedding. Well, it would be if we weren't getting married on the Central Coast, in a 70's red brick block-shaped number. But that's another story.
I managed to stay awake during the sermon, and only kipped lightly through the prayers, thanks to the time-honoured traditions of pew design - make the bastards as uncomfortable as possible to keep them alert. I tried to store a few pointers in my memory bank for later, but a lot of my internal RAM seemed to be taken up with processing Scotch 12.0 from the previous night. Mrs STB seemed to get some sort of message from it all, and was only slightly surprised when I didn't.
After the service, we had a little time to kill before lunch so wandered around town looking for somewhere with air conditioning to grab a coffee and try to spark up. There was something that had been weighing on my mind since I peered in the rectory window earlier and saw the formal dining setting laid out for us - what do I do if the Rev asks me point blank if I believe in God? I figured it's not really kosher to lie to priests, but then maybe the idea of them marrying an atheist wouldn't be the ideal lunch conversation topic. Mrs STB suggested I could get around the moral dilemma with some slightly fuzzy logic -
MSTB: Look, you sort of believe that everyone is their own god, and that you are your own god, right.
MSTB: Then, you believe in yourself, so therefore, you believe in God, right? So you wouldn't really be lying.
ME: Well, I don't know if I would have put it quite like that, but lets run with it.
MSTB: By the way, how come you didn't object to getting married in a church, if you don't believe in god?
ME: It's cheaper and less hassle than getting council permission to set the marquee up on the beach
MSTB: oh (looks at me like I'm more of a freak than normal)
The Rev is actually the father of a couple of Mrs STBs best friends (and yes, they are from the same family!), so she has known him all her life. Fortunately, this association seemed to be a good enough recommendation, and I got through the interview with only the mandatory questions as dictated by our government (been married before? Changed your name? Is this really you?), another excellent reason for maintaining the separation of church and state. I discovered that Sundays are a great day for this sort of thing - the Rev has already conducted two services and delivered two sermons, not to mention listened to the whinges of the parishioners, before lunchtime, and only has a few hours before ramping up for the evening service, so the whole interview process was thankfully brief. All the necessary approvals have been obtained. The bishop of Newcastle diocese has approved a Canon from Goulburn diocese to marry us, and both were gracious enough to let my sis, a Uniting minister, do the sermon. Long story, much paperwork, but now finally sorted.
So it looks like we can now go ahead and get married after all.