Revd Jackie

Rev. Jackie Bullen
Vicar

Love is all around

The 1999 film Notting Hill tells the story of a film star, Anna Scott (played by the wide-smiled Julia Roberts), and a hapless niche-bookshop keeper, William Thacker (played by the floppy-haired Hugh Grant). The two meet by coincidence and then, through all the twists and turns of a classic rom-com fall in and out of love and in again until, we hope, they both lived happily ever after.

The film contains many classic moments. The time when William has to wear his prescription snorkel to the cinema because he can't find his glasses and the moving conversation at the dinner party where a group of friends have to fight for the last muffin by telling the saddest story, to name but two.

The standout moment, though, is perhaps when Anna seeks out William to fight for their relationship. He has been put off by the media circus that surrounds this famous actress, by the fiction that is woven around their relationship. But Anna knows that there is another story to tell and when she finds him simply, movingly, she says this: “I am just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love me.” I was reminded of those words a few weeks ago when, along with most of the rest of the world, I watched Meghan Markle marry Prince Harry. In the weeks leading up to the wedding, the media circus had been in full flight and Meghan's family in particular were subject to the most intrusive press coverage. There had been speculation about the guest list, the dress, who would walk Meghan down the aisle, whether Harry would shave off his beard, whether little Prince Louis would put in an appearance and on and on it went.

But then, when Harry lifted Meghan's veil from her face and they exchanged vows and rings, it was as if there was only the two of them there and Meghan was saying to Harry, “I am just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love me.” And for a moment, the circus was stilled.

Not for long, though; it didn't take long for pundits and internet warriors to criticise the simplicity of the dress or the length of the sermon or the social climbing they perceived in the guest list. How very sad that society couldn't rest in the simplicity of the “I'm-just-a-girl-standing-in-front-of-a-boy-asking-him-to-love-me” moment, to rejoice in the faith and hope of that moment, rather than resorting to the default that seems to be so often the case in our society: cynicism, criticism, the relentless desire to burst the bubble.

So, this letter is to address every cynical and grumpy commentator. A plea that instead of sowing doubt at every turn we would learn instead to celebrate the faith it takes for a person to make promises to another for life and the essential hopefulness of that covenant. That expectation, that determination, that whatever life throws at them, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, they will love one another, hold with one another, fight for the other.

Conducting weddings is a great joy and for me I also have the great pleasure of being the closest witness to many “I'm-just-a-girl-standing-in-front-of-a-boy-asking-him-to-love-me” moments. I rejoice in the faith, hope and love that those moments represent and pray and trust, as the wedding service says, that these marriages would be 'life-giving and life-long'.

And as I witness each of these promises being made, I will remember, too, the covenant which God has entered into with me and all his people. It is a covenant of supreme faith and hope and love: that he will hold to us for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health and not just until death parts us (for nothing can separate us from the love of God) but from here and to eternity, to infinity and beyond.

Come on, my friends, join with me in packing away the inner cynic and rejoice in a world where love is, actually, all around us.

Jackie