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Marriage heroes honored by church’s young couples

FORT WORTH, Texas (BP) — Young marrieds and senior adults are the two largest Sunday School departments at Travis Avenue Baptist Church. When the younger couples hosted a celebration of more than 70 couples and 30 widows or widowers married at least 50 years, it was so special to Fieldon Williams that he arrived sporting two black eyes and staples in his forehead from a fall that sent him to the emergency room days earlier.

Williams and his wife Colleen, married 55 years, joined fellow members of the church, young and old, for wedding cake, punch, nuts, mints, conversation and fellowship. Several couples brought wedding albums for others to peruse.

“We’ve got everything you need to have to have a southern wedding,” associate pastor Bernie Hargis joked at the gathering in Fort Worth, Texas.

Hargis served as the event’s emcee, opening the program with prayer and recognition of the church members who had persevered in marriage. He then introduced a video by senior pastor Michael Dean, who was out of town and unable to attend.

“You are our heroes,” Dean said in voicing congratulations to those who had been married a half-century or more.

“The rest of us look to you as an example of what God intends for marriage to be,” Dean said. “In our culture today, marriage is not held in high esteem. Many are trying to redefine marriage. But you can see in this room the evidence of God’s blessing on His good and perfect design of a man and woman for a lifetime for His glory.”

Applause had resounded when Hargis recognized couples in the room who had been married 50-54, 55-59, 60-64 and 65-69 years or more, including Volera Kirkpatrick, a widow who had been married 70 years.

Matt Sessoms and his wife Kristin, wed seven years, voiced appreciation to the marriage veterans. Sessoms, a marriage and family counselor, commended their “longevity of commitment.”

Noting that many marriages last but two years, Sessoms said his work involves helping couples establish a “foundation for longevity.” He told older couples, “You are testifying to us that commitment does work and following God’s plan does matter.”

Janis and Ray Raley, a couple married 30 years who joined the church as newlyweds, also addressed the Oct. 11 event.

“Many of the couples we are honoring today are among the very earliest investors in our marriage, and they continue to do so today,” Janis told the crowd.

“You have qualities in your marriages that we notice and we admire. You possess a calm during the storms of life,” Ray added. “You have counted it all joy. You have a quiet confidence. It’s not emotionless. It’s not stoic. But it’s a quiet presence. The Bible talks about being surefooted in the Psalms. You have seen God work so many times in plenty and in your struggles.”

Ray also praised the couples for their commitment to serving in the community and their fellowship with one another.

“You pray for each other. You hold confidences very dear and hold them fast,” Ray said. “You guys just love being together. It’s wonderful. You invest in the lives of those coming behind you.”

Intergenerational fellowship followed around the roomful of tables as younger couples asked questions of older couples, with one generation passing its wisdom to the next. The evening concluded with prayer and a group photo of all those married 50 or more years.

Meredith and Michael Hughens, members of the Travis Avenue newlywed class, handed out nametags. Asked what they hoped to gain from the older couples, Meredith replied, “There’s endless kinds of wisdom to learn from these folks. We’ve made it a year, and I feel we have learned a lot in a year. I can’t imagine how much you learn in 50-plus years.”

Referencing Psalm 71:18, Wes Black, the church’s minister to senior adults, summed up the goals of the celebration: “Scott Floyd, our church counselor, and I are looking for ways our older adults can pass along their faith to the next generation, and this is one way to facilitate that.”

If the smiles and laughter around Travis Avenue Baptist Church that day are any indication, the celebration of marriage provided just that.

“When you get married, you get married for life,” said Ed York, who has been married to Laura Gene for 67 years. “Just talk” when the ups and downs of life hit, he advised.

“Continue talking to the Lord. Attend church. Be with other Christian people,” Laura Gene added. “And keep holding hands.”