Weddings and Funerals in the Meetinghouse

by Weldon E. Warnock

A feeling has arisen in the minds of somegood brethren that the meetinghouse may not be used for weddings or funerals. They are saying that the church building was erected with the Lord’s money, and, therefore, it may only be used for authorized church functions. This position, as I see it, is an extreme and inconsistent one.

It is granted that the Lord’s money when used in building construction should only be used to erect facilities that expedite the church’s authorized work. The church has no right to build kitchens and dining halls for social purposes, wedding chapels or funeral parlors. These things do not constitute the work of the church. But for the building to be used for a wedding or funeral is something else. No divine principle is violated in any way by such usage of the building. Really, the Lord never did say what could or could not be done in a meetinghouse. He informed the church how to conduct itself, but said nothing about the meetinghouse. Hence, the issue is a matter of judgment and expediency. However, in the exercise of this liberty, nothing should be done that is in poor taste or that reflects upon the cause of Christ.

Brethren talk about the meetinghouse not being holy, then turn around and treat it like Solomon’s temple. Some chide the too liberal brethren for their “dedication service” of the new church building. Right here is where the matter becomes rather ironic. The too liberal brethren “dedicate” their building to the Lord and then make a big ado about it not being sacred. Whereas some of the “conserva­tive” brethren would have nothing to do with a “dedicatorial service” but act toward the building as though it was a sacred shrine on holy ground. I see a little taint of the Catholic attitude in this concept of the meetinghouse.

If no weddings or funerals may be conducted in the building because they are not functions of the church, then we are going to have to quit socializ­ing before and after worship. Everything in the world (an exaggeration, wew) is discussed by the brethren in the building — from little junior’s cut­ting of teeth to the number of coons old Blue treed the night before. These things must come to a halt if consistency is to be attained. There can be no con­versation, other than on the Bible until you get off church property. After all, the church’s money was not spent to provide a place to discuss coon hunting.

Too, I am certain that the church’s yard and parking area bear the same relationship to this problem as the meetinghouse does. I do not think that one can logically say that the building should be anymore restricted than the outside premises. Both were bought with the same money. Hence, if the meetinghouse may not be used for anything other than church functions, then neither may the outside grounds. We are therefore forced to enclose the premises with a fence to prohibit football games, hopscotch, tag, etc. by the neighborhood children. Fencing the lot will also prevent the townspeople, in some places, parking on the property during the week while they shop or work.

Remember that the parking lot was not built for a neighborhood playground or a public parking lot. If the meetinghouse may not be used for weddings and funerals because it was notbuilt for these pur­poses, then neither may the parking lot be used for games and public parking because it was not built for these purposes. If some brethren’s thinking is sound on the meetinghouse, the same kind of think­ing is valid on the parking lot. If not, why not?

But someone says, “The public will get the wrong impression of the church if weddings and funerals are permitted.” Here is where teaching enters the picture. We must teach the public. Really, I do not know of any that has gotten harmful impressions from a wedding or funeral in the building. There are some that are getting distorted concepts and impressions of extremism from those who refuse to allow them in the building. One woman said, when her daughter, who had recently become a Christian, was not allowed to have her wedding in the building, “She was refused because she did not grow up in that church.”

Our children attend the services of the church all of their young lives, then when they get ready to marry, they are forced to go to another congrega­tion’s building where weddings are not objection­able. Oh yes, the opposition to weddings in a church building (at the home congregation, anyway) are right there to watch and give their blessings to the couple. Inconsistent, would not you say?

It seems to me that instead of getting so string­ent on weddings and funerals in the meetinghouse, there needs to be a lot of emphasis on the non-use of the building. Brethren will spend from 100 to 200 thousand dollars on a structure, then use it about four hours a week. A good portion of the weekly contribution is consumed paying on the debt for 15 to 20 years, just to have a place to meet a few hours each week. This non-use does not seem to bother some of the brethren, but mention a wedding and they quickly respond about the misuse of the building. Let’s make the meetinghouse a center for special classes, training and development, and a host of other work that comes within the church’s mis­sion. We need to be better stewards of church property.

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