Sunday Service includes Surprise Wedding

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Church services often include baptisms and professions of faith, but at The River Christian Reformed Church, a recent Sunday morning service also included a wedding.

On March 20, 2011, the Redlands, Calif., congregation heard that God’s love redeems all of life, including relationships, as they witnessed the covenant of marriage between Philip Daugherty, 42 and Weslene Haines, 53.

The couple, whose lives included a history of drug use and jail time, had been living together for three years prior to finding a home at The River CRC.

Rev. William Verhoef, pastor of family life at the church, said, “They were both clearly open to a fresh start with the Lord. They have wanted to get married for some time but finances were an issue.”

A California marriage license costs $83. Verhoef initially planned to bring the couple to the county clerk. But Rev. Scott Elgersma, senior pastor, suggested they hold the wedding during the church’s new members worship service when Philip was baptized and Weslene reaffirmed her faith.

During the sermon, Elgersma highlighted that God uses extraordinary plans to redeem brokenness. “We then moved to redeeming a broken relationship by having a Christ-filled, God-glorifying ceremony to end the service,” said Elgersma.

When the council heard the wedding idea, there was unanimous agreement. “So many folks got on board. A wedding dress was found for Weslene. The deacons helped Philip rent a tuxedo. Instead of the normal coffee and cookies after the service in the fellowship hall, there were cakes,” said Verhoef. The deacons also arranged for the marriage certificate and fees.

“It feels so great to be part of a new family, to belong to something so good,” said Haines.

For many in the congregation, the wedding came as a surprise.

Christine Nydam said, “I was definitely surprised. Our church has been so supportive of the ministry of helping those who need a little extra help. Having baptism, profession of faith, and a marriage all during a Sunday church service was a wonderful blessing and testimony.”

Shirley Ten Have agreed. “We have heard about God's love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness from the pulpit. Now we have witnessed it as well.”

“I couldn’t have asked for a better day,” said the new Mrs. Daugherty.

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