The Bishop of Lichfield, The Rt Revd Jonathan Gledhill was among the guests present for the launch of Marriage Week UK last night. 'After an intense day of meetings in the House of Bishops, it was lovely to hear good news about marriage in this country yesterday evening', he said.
Marriage Week aims to celebrate healthy marriages and encourage couples to take time to refresh their relationships by making time for each other. Founded by Richard & Maria Kane of the charity Marriage Resource in Hampshire in 1996, the Marriage Week project is now supported by a range of organisations including the Church of England and has spread to sixteen countries. Launched last night, it concludes appropriately on 14 February.
Ive been a supporter of Marriage Week for a long time. Many years ago, a friend of mine who was vicar of a church in Hampshire, invited couples who had been wed in his church to come back and renew their wedding vows at the same time. Richard had been invited as a friend of one of those couples. Beforehand he was sceptical about the idea, but found the event so moving, he has been inspired ever since.
Speakers at the launch last night outlined the importance of marriage to society as a whole.
New research suggests that marriage is more enduring than is commonly believed. A study of divorce rates shows that the divorce rate for all couples is today no higher than it was in the 1960s.
Harry Benson, Communications Director at the Marriage Foundation, said: After ten years of marriage, theres the same chance a couple who marry in 2013 will keep the vow til death do us part as there was forty years ago.
Half of all divorces currently take place during the first decade of marriage. There is hope for newlyweds, however, in that the divorce rate during the first ten years of marriage has fallen in recent years from a peak in 1993, a trend Mr Benson predicted will continue.
Subtitled Celebrating Commitment, the project has issued a challenge to couples, churches, community groups and even companies to make a positive contribution to celebrating marriage. Ideas listed on marriage-week.org.uk include Write love notes to each other and leave them around your home for each other to discover; Make a love-making pact with each other, committing you to making love with each other every night for the week and watch the impact on the rest of the year! And Buy a book (or DVD) on strengthening your marriage and read (or watch) it together this week. Companies are urged to have Go home to your spouse evenings instead of working late in the office while it suggests that churches may run a romantic dinner for married couples with candle-light and champagne or offer a free Marriage check-up.
Services enabling couples to Re-Affirm their marriage vows are also suggested, though couples may wish to wait a year as the project also announced its plans to coordinate a world record-breaking feat. The BIG Promise aims to encourage far more than 1,087 couples to re-affirm their vows simultaneously at venues across Britain on Saturday 8th Feburary 2014.
Said Bishop Jonathan I do find as I talk to people that many marriages drift along in the busyness of life. We become distracted by all sorts of things, and take our eyes off of our spouse. Yet marriage is the basic building block of society. It is a God-given gift that, like a good wine, needs sunshine and rain, time and attention to mature. Youre never too old to add some fresh sparkle to a relationship.