Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. – Genesis 2:24 (KJV)
On Sunday, April 15, 2018, 16 married couples stood at the altar of Wesley Chapel UMC in Little Rock and the congregation celebrated with them the fact they are examples of strong God-ordained unions. Ranging in longevity from one month to 52 years, these marriages are truly cause for rejoicing at a time when marriages are just as likely to fail as they are to succeed.
The Wesley Chapel Marriage Ministry led by Anthony and Renisha Ward coordinated the observance of Black Marriage Day during the 10:45 a.m. worship experience. There is a feeling in the country today that wedded bliss is becoming a thing of the past, and that the breakdown of the institution of marriage plays a part in many of the ills of our society. Whatever affects the country in general affects African Americans even more so, which led Nisa Muhammad to establish Black Marriage Day fifteen years ago.
Mrs. Ward explained why she feels it important for us to honor the institution of marriage. “Our goal is to show that marriage is ordained by God, is not to be taken lightly, and can be a beneficial and rewarding part of life. While sustaining a healthy marriage is not an easy task, fulfilling the commitment is tantamount to fulfilling God’s commandments and other instructions.” She added, “It’s time for Christians, especially African Americans, to stand up for this covenant with God. Sure, there are bad days and struggles, but we can show that staying committed is worth it.”
Married and engaged couples served as liturgists and greeters, and Pastor Ronnie Miller-Yow preached a sermon entitled “The Ten Commandments of Marriage.” Using the second and third chapters of Genesis as a text, he reinforced the importance of knowing how to deal with adversity is a key to maintaining the commitment it takes to sustain a marriage. Studies show that growing up in a household with married parents gives children more stability emotionally, financially, educationally, socially, and behaviorally. Celebrating black marriages brings awareness to these benefits.
Mrs. Muhammad acknowledges the positive impact the annual day of awareness has had: “Since I started Black Marriage Day in 2003, I’ve met thousands of wonderful couples around the country that defy the stereotype of marriage being weak or unstable in the Black community. I see marriage evolving to be stronger, healthier and having more support for couples that want a lasting marriage. Today there are many resources available and more marriages are being saved as well as being strengthened because couples see the hope and promise of wedded bliss.”
At Wesley Chapel we recognize birthdays and wedding anniversaries the first Sunday of each month, vigorously giving God the praise for married couples. On Marriage Sunday, married couples received prayer for their continued success. A reception with wedding cake followed the worship service. The celebrated couples stand as shining examples to others, and they themselves have been reminded that “what God has joined together, let no one separate.”