August Town Couples Recommit with Marriage Vows
Written by: O’Neil Harris | Photographs by Gemuel Planto, Dennis Anderson (Jr) Russell Jarrett | Thursday, June 28, 2018
On the Sabbath afternoon of June 16, 2018, the August Town Family Life Ministries Department staged a renewal of marriage vows ceremony under the theme "Built to Last". This was the second of such ceremonies held at the church with the previous one held ten years ago. The rarity of the ceremony gave it a sense of high importance.
Twenty-seven married couples participated in the ceremony whose marriages ranged from a low of six months to twenty-four years and included spouses of church members who are non- Adventist. Over the last few years, factors such as deaths, sickness and migration of older couples have resulted in the absence of much older married couples from the church population. Of special note, among the participants were local pastor Romean Smith and his wife Antoinette (married for seven years) as well as Phillip Castell, Communications Director for the East Jamaica Conference, who celebrated his twenty-seventh anniversary of marriage to Yvette on the day of the renewal.
The objectives of the ceremony were to allow the married couples the opportunity to strengthen their unions on their 'Journey to Intimacy' as well as to reinforce the scriptural basis of marriage and to celebrate its beauty so that the youth may develop healthy aspirations to marry. Additionally, the ceremony had an evangelistic component geared to create an opportunity for non-Adventist persons/spouses to unite and fellowship with Adventists to uphold family values and to participate in a church service. Senior pastor and veteran husband, Owen Thomas,
married to Elena for thirty years, presided over the proceedings. In his mini-sermon, he made many solid points. Some of which are summarised below:
- Marriage made him to be a better person.
- Marriage was built by God to be permanent.
- Marriage must be built on Jesus. Marriages built on money, education, property will not last.
- He highlighted 1 Corinthians 13 and added that it is charity, faith and love that will last.
- He recognised married persons in the congregation whose spouses were absent for one reason or another and encouraged them to be faithful to their vows.
- He paid tribute to widows and widowers and encouraged them to be faithful and prayed for their strength
- Encouraged singles not to be pressured into marriage but to wait on the Lord
After his charge he administered the specially prepared vows to the married couples who prayerfully renewed their commitment to their partners and marriages.
Special features were put in place to heighten the sense of awe of the moment. These included the entry of the couples in the order of the least to the most years of marriage. This served to re enforce the fact that each marriage was at a different stage and that marriage is a progressive institution with many at various ages and stages. In addition, as each couple entered the sanctuary their names and years of marriage were announced and their wedding photograph prominently displayed on the screen to show what they looked like on the day they made their original vows. Furthermore there were flower girls, decorations and photographers.
Careful thought was given in the selection of the hymns for the service in order to focus the minds of all present of the sanctity and solemnity of the special service. The hymns included “O Perfect Love” and was rendered in the form of an instrumental duet by August Town’s Two Teen Talents Daniel Francis and Andwele Harris on violin and keyboard respectively. Also rendered was “Bread of Heaven”, solo, by first elder Sean Francis (married to Hyacinth for seventeen and a half years) in an operatic style. “Saviour, Like a Shepherd” was the song of rededication and done soulfully and reverently by Danielle and Bayele Mais, married for nine months.
A special highlight of the programme was a section called Testimonies to the Power of Love where three of the participants testified of how being married transformed their lives for the better. These testimonies were offered by Richard Samuels (married to Kerryann for two years) O’Neil Harris (married to Claudette for sixteen and a half years) and Marsha Risden (married to Marcus for nineteen and a half years). Of special note was the testimony of Marsha which highlighted among other things her initial wedding jitters when she was a young bride, the birth of her children as well as a host of trials and triumphs her marriage has faced and that by God’s Power of Love her marriage has prevailed.
At the end of the ceremony, Pastor Thomas offered the special prayer in which he fervently petitioned God on behalf of the couples for the happiness, holiness and longevity so that all should know that it was God’s design that marriage is Built to Last!
Gillian Riley, who paid keen attention to the ceremony, was inspired.
“It was a refreshing programme. It is an inspiration to us who are young and single to know that after all the years with their spouses in the unity of marriage, they (the couples) would say ‘I do’ all over again,” said Riley.
Latoya and Rohan Thompson, the church’s newest married couple, (six months) was encouraged.
“When we looked around at the other couples and know of the many years they have spent together, it gave us hope and make us more patient and loving to each other,” remarked the couple.
Other newlyweds, Danielle and Bayele Mais were very grateful by the experience.
“We have always been spectators to events like these and so it was really special to participate in something so fulfilling as a couple. It was a humbling experience to be with the older couples that have reached decades and to see them still committed and in love was inspiring”.
Megan and Dennis Anderson, the couple celebrating the longest number of years of marriage, (twenty-four years) stated,
“It was an awesome experience with a thousand memories running through our minds. The speaker made a few key points that caused us to reflect on our own marriage and to make changes for the future. Looking at my life partner once again and reciting the vows gain was like a pleasant dream. We did it and are still doing it with God as the centre. “
Following the service of celebration of marriage was a Couples Night Out*at Glorias in Port Royal, where the couples spent the rest of the evening having fun, fellowship and fish.
*Couples Night Out is an August Town tradition where once a year the married couples go out on a group date to a restaurant for a night of fun and fellowship.