In order to be entitled to be married in a particular church, you need to be able to demonstrate a qualifying connection to it. The rules were changed a couple of years back and so now you have a qualifying connection if you were baptised, or prepared for confirmation there, if you have lived there for any six month period (in your whole life), or you have habitually worshipped there for at least six months (at any point in your life).
And there’s more – if your parents lived in the parish, or worshipped there, during your lifetime that counts.
And if your parents or grandparents were married in that church, that counts too.
You may wonder why I am banging on about this. The reason – two of our churches are particularly pretty. So I spend a lot of time explaining Qualifying Connections – always with a “you are welcome to come and worship with us, see if you like us, and if you do, establish a qualifying connection through being a habitual worshipper for six months or more.” This usually goes down like a lead balloon. It’s not that I want to turn people away or be unwelcoming. I’d just like folk to know that it’s not my fault!
There are benefits to the rules. For the people who do have qualifying connections, it means they have a fighting chance of being married in their church, fairly close to the date they want. If it was a free for all, the parishioners wouldn’t stand a chance.
And I think the idea behind the rules is about community. About sacraments being administered in a place that holds meaning for the people. That, to my mind, is the most important thing – that you take the important steps in life surrounded by, and enfolded in, a community that has relevance to you. Not because it looks good in the photos.
Feel free to disagree!