A Ruby Wedding

A speech by Paul on the occasion of Paul & Caroline’s ruby wedding.

I first met Caroline in October 1964 at a Robert Hall Society tea meeting in St Andrew’s Street Baptist Church, Cambridge. She was quite noticeable – not least because she was about one of six girls in a large room of men. Those were the days when there were only two women’s colleges in Cambridge. At the time I said to myself “That’s the girl for me”. And so she proved to be.

But that was almost 43 years ago. It seems almost unbelievable that here we are celebrating our Ruby Wedding. I used to think people celebrating their ruby wedding were old & decrepit – but perhaps as far as the younger generation are concerned, we are! Yet age is not necessarily a bad thing. It has, e.g., been said that “the age of a woman doesn’t mean a thing. The best tunes are played on the oldest fiddles”. I leave you to ponder on the precise significance of that statement.

But to return to our Ruby Wedding. The idea of being married for 40 years fills some people with horror. I vividly remember a young couple asking me to marry them, but then going on to say that they were only prepared to commit themselves to one another for 10 years – after that they would have to review the situation. Indeed, I am told that in America one in five couples getting married no longer promise unconditional commitment to one another. Instead, they adopt a more cautious vow and promise to remain committed to one another “for as long as our marriage shall serve the common good”. Indeed, an increasingly popular phrase is: “I promise to be loyal to you as long as love lasts” or “until our time together is over”.

But as it is, we have been married for 40 years. 40 years – it has a Biblical ring to it. I’m reminded that the children of Israel spent 40 years in the wilderness. But after 40 years they then got to the Promised Land. Maybe things will improve for us, Caroline! Who knows?

As Caroline and I look back over these past 40 years we are conscious that we have been a very privileged couple. In so many ways God has blessed us. Yes, like most other couples we have had our tough times – life has not always been easy. BUT our blessings have far outweighed the difficulties we have known.

In these 40 years we have packed in a good deal.

  • The first two years of our married life were very busy spent in Manchester.
  • The third year was spent in Switzerland and was wonderfully exhilarating.
  • The next two years in Congo/Zaire were not easy, but enriched us beyond.
  • The next 13 years in Altrincham were very happy years.
  • Six years at Spurgeon’s are perhaps best described as challenging.
  • The past fourteen years here in Chelmsford have been mixed – the first seven were somewhat lean, but the past seven years have been exceedingly rewarding.

Yes, as a couple we have been greatly blessed. If I have a text for this afternoon, it would be taken from the opening verses of Psalm 103: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his benefits.”

We have been blessed with good friends. I confess that we did not find it easy to know who to invite today – there have been so many who have been good friends to us over the years. As our Christmas mailing bears witness we could have filled the marquee many times over with friends . But there have been special friends – and those of you who are hear today fall into that category. We are so pleased that you have been able to come and share in our Ruby Wedding celebrations. I particularly want to thank those who have come a distance – especially Inge & Toni Staudt. Of friends it has been said: “To find a friend one must close one eye. To keep him – two” (Norman Douglas). I am conscious that many of you must have closed both eyes in order to maintain friendship with us both.

We have been blessed with great parents. At a time like this we miss Caroline’s parents – as also my father. I am just so very sorry that my mother is not with us today, but before she knew of this date she had fixed to go on a cruise with Stephen and his wife Charlotte.

We have been blessed with supportive children. Children have not always had the best of presses: there is an English proverb which says: “Children suck the mother when they are young and the father when they are old”. While there have been times when we have had to bail out a child, increasingly the support has gone the other way. Timothy, Susannah and Benjamin: we can’t tell you sufficiently how much you mean to us. Needless to say, we miss Jonathan very much.

We have been blessed with two delightful grandchildren – with a third on the way. I can’t believe how besotted I am with Jemima and Felix.

And of course, I have been blessed with a wife. On a day like today I am sure that you will expect me to quote Prov 31.10, which in the AV reads: “Who can find a virtuous woman, for her price is far above rubies?” Most modern versions, however, do without the reference to rubies: almost certainly the Proverb is referring to coral. So, e.g., the REB reads: “Who can find a good wife? Her worth is far beyond red coral”. The reference, incidentally, is to “the ancient Near East practice of obtaining a wife by means of a ‘bride-price’” (Waltke). Actually, Caroline, I don’t think your parents ever paid me for taking you off their hands!

To be serious, Caroline has proved to be an exceedingly good, loving and capable wife. Not surprisingly, I am very proud of her. True, when we first married and I was doing my PhD I used to tell her that it would have been helpful if she had been a typist. Then when the children came, I used to say that it would have been helpful to have been a nurse. But as it was, she was first a teacher, then a very dedicated minister’s wife, then a barrister, and now a leading coroner. But it’s not what you do, but what you are, which counts. For that I am most grateful.