A Hilton Head Island church plans to squeeze a little more substance into the mushy promises and chocolate candy of Valentine's Day: a come-as-you-are, quick group renewal of wedding vows beneath a live oak as the sun sets over Mackays Creek.
"We want to take a somewhat cheesy time of year, Valentine's Day, and make it something meaningful," said the Rev. Daniel Burbage, associate pastor at St. Andrew By-the-Sea United Methodist Church on Pope Avenue.
Clergy often deal with the wreckage when marriages end up on the rocks. "It's important to be reminded of the importance of marriage," is how the young pastor put it, a month after celebrating his 10th anniversary.
But this event started in a brainstorming session for fun ideas. It was quickly picked up by the women in the church office. It is somewhat planned. The "reaffirmation" vows come from the "United Methodist Book of Worship." And it is somewhat spontaneous. Word is seeping out by Facebook, and they have no idea what to expect.
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Couples are invited to gather rain or shine at the C.C. "Chink" Haigh Jr. Boat Landing on Pinckney Island at 5:45 p.m. on Valentine's Day. Look for the large live oak just past the docks.
"I hear a lot of times the word 'love' used," Burbage said. "I love this and I love that. But the biblical sense of love is something deeper than just feeling, or thought. It's more of a covenant understanding. There are different types of understanding in the Scripture, but when it comes to marriage, it's something deeper than just a feeling. I think that if we can communicate that through this, and help reaffirm people's covenant, I think that's really a cool thing."
If his name sounds familiar, it's because his grandfather, Miles Burbage, was editor and publisher of The Beaufort Gazette in the 1960s. His father, John Burbage, broke into a 42-year journalism career at the Gazette. His grandmother lives in Sheldon. Burbage thought he got thrown in the briar patch when he was assigned to St. Andrew in July, with the task of starting a new satellite campus in the Buckwalter section of Bluffton.
The kid raised on Huspah Creek will now stand with his own two small children, by new waters, with a new hope.
"The vows themselves are not only vows to each other but vows to God," Burbage said. "God is such a big part of that, and helps us when we struggle and helps us when we have hard times or changes in our life. If there's anything this could accomplish, it is to remind people that God is with them in their marriage and is there for them. That's really my hope."