To think even a very small marriage is among the non-essential things in Sydney at the moment, is a wrong turn. It is a move that won’t be for the betterment of our social fabric, health or economy.
I’m no COVID denier. Nor am I a critic of lockdowns. In fact, I have great respect for our leaders. I thank God for them. Federal. NSW. Victorian. The whole lot.
But I do think that disallowing as few as five people from an empty church for a wedding is a step too far.
As an Anglican minister, I’ve recently been helping prepare a young couple for marriage. They are Christians and so living apart until the wedding day. They’ve been gearing up to make great and time-tested vows.
To have and to hold
from this day forward,
for better for worse,
for richer for poorer,
in sickness and in health,
to love, and to cherish,
as long as we both shall live.
This is my solemn vow and promise.
Vows until death.
They’ve told me they would go ahead with five people in the room, as was possible in Sydney in 2020. But they’re unsure that will be allowed.
Individuals can line up in a newsagency to pay for lottery tickets; brush shoulders reaching for a case of beer; and walk the aisles of Coles to squeeze-test avocados, but even with the smallest, most subdued wedding crowd in history, a marriage is not allowed.
Since time immemorial words of this nature spoken by husbands and wives have aided societies in their productivity and stability. It doesn’t make sense to put a stop to that now.
Of course, the restrictions are for a time. But a ban—with no end in sight—would seem to expose a de-valuing of marriage itself.
Intimate partners can get together if they live in different homes. Individuals can exercise locally with a friend (that’s seven possible extra contacts per week if one runs with a new friend each day). Would a very small wedding—with physical distancing—be so bad?
Here’s a final thought.
Among the kinds of people we will want walking the streets of Sydney after the pandemic are those who were willing to stand up the midst of uncertain days and say: “I’m not going anywhere. I’ll remain committed to you.”
At their wedding, couples promise to stay together in times of sickness and health. We ought to let them begin their marriage in both times too.
Joshua Maule is an Anglican minister in Sydney.