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It is finally here! The week before the wedding and it will be a busy week, but full of excitement and celebration.

My brother, Larry, and his fiancé, Keri, or the person I have referred to as my “some-day-sister-in-law,” will be married on Saturday.

I am honored to be the best man – although that title is not quite right. Best woman? Best friend? I’m really not sure about the title, but I am certain of my role in the ceremony, but also in their marriage.

Yes, I know that I am holding the rings, signing the certificate and making a toast at the reception, but it is after the formal wear has been put back on the hanger that the real job begins.

The people they have asked to stand beside them as they take vows to love each other for the rest of their lives, as well as anyone that is attending and celebrating with them, are tasked with supporting them in their marriage. It is a privilege, but also a responsibility.

This thought occurred to me on Sunday during the dedication of a child at church. The parents were pledging to love the child unconditionally and promising to teach and guide her in the church and her faith.

Extended family promised to love and support her and her parents as she grew. The congregation vowed to keep her and her family in prayer and be her church family.

That is not much different than a wedding ceremony, in my mind. There are different rituals and initiations that we have in our families and in our culture to welcome new people.

In fact, I also learned that during the early church, if a person were to become a Christian, they needed a sponsor. Since there were no church buildings that were open to the public, they had a process called “The Apostolic Tradition of Hippolytus.”

The four stages included Evangelism, the Catechumenate, Baptismal Preparation and Baptism. This initiation process extended over the course of three to four years.

It began with noticing that your friend or family member was acting differently. They weren’t going to the gladiators and maybe they seemed to be experiencing more peace. If you wanted that type of life and wanted to be accepted into the church, you would have to learn a new way of living which included a sponsor advocating for you with the church leaders.

Make changes or be rejected.

The gladiators and men in the military were often killed when they tried to make the changes required of the church.

In the second stage converts would learn the Bible, the art of prayer, visiting the sick and communion, but it wasn’t until the third stage that you would prepare for Baptism. This stage usually lasted six to eight weeks which was during the Lent season.

The sponsor was involved throughout the process which culminates on Easter Sunday with a completely disrobed Baptism. Early Christians were distinct.

Every new child and every marriage is different and distinct, but I believe we should all act as sponsors and support to the people we love. It is a privilege and a responsibility.

And who should we love? Every one. But that is another column.

This week as we prepare to celebrate Larry and Keri’s wedding, I hope they know how much they are loved and supported.

But just in case my “best man” toast falls short of conveying that support, I hope they will remember that the rituals could involve something more difficult than planning a wedding ceremony. You could be nude.

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