COUPLES WILL renew their marriage vows in a Valentine's Day service Sunday at Bethany United Methodist Church in Ellicott City.
Senior Pastor Rod Miller planned the celebration when he realized that Valentine's Day fell on a Sunday this year.
He had attended a workshop on marriage last summer that stressed the role of the church in helping people keep their marriage vows.
In the past, one or two couples a year renewed their vows during the year, and the church sponsored dances on Valentine's Day.
But in this year's event, parishioners and other community members are invited to participate in "renewing, reaffirming, remembering, celebrating and giving thanks" for their marriage covenant.
Miller said he believes it is especially important for children "to hear us say that we put God and our families first."
Many children wonder how committed their parents are to each other, the pastor added. He said some ask openly when their parents will divorce.
The service will give parents a chance to talk about their wedding and enjoy their photograph albums.
The service will include the hymn "O Perfect Love," Elizabeth Barrett Browning's poem "How Do I Love Thee?" and an improvisational dance by Amy LeRoy, a senior at Centennial High School, and other young people from Linden-Linthicum United Methodist Church in Clarksville.
Miller said he announced the celebration during a church service.
Husbands and wives usually sit with their children between them during the service, he said.
When he mentioned the renewal of vows, Miller noticed wives reach over the children to touch their husbands on the shoulder, in a nudge of interest.
The service has generated many questions among the church's parishioners. Answers to the 10 most commonly asked questions about the service appeared in the church bulletin yesterday.
Parishioners were assured that they did not have to have a perfect marriage to participate in the service. Women were relieved from the obligation of trying to fit into their old wedding gowns. All are welcomed, the bulletin said, and all the couples who participate will stand and renew their vows together.
The bulletin encouraged guests and children to attend.
The pastor and associate pastor assured their parishioners in the bulletin that there would be no big processional and added, tongue in cheek, "Just come in and find a seat -- preferably next to your spouse."
Church members Ruth and Ken Baumann have decided to renew their vows.
The couple met when she was 15 and he was 18, roller-skating in the Walbrook neighborhood of West Baltimore where they lived.
They were married in her mother's home on April 23, 1937.
Ken Baumann asked Miller if he thought he should get his wife a corsage for the event.
The pastor said "yes."
Miller and Associate Pastor Lisa Bandel-Sparks will officiate at the service.
They also plan to renew marriage vows with their spouses.
Miller said he will buy a corsage for his wife, Carol. The Millers have been married for five years.
Bandel-Sparks will celebrate her first anniversary with her husband, Craig, in May.
Ken Baumann said a good marriage takes patience, kindness and regard for each other.
"Each has got to do his part," he said.
"Going to church together means a lot," Ruth Baumann added
Church secretary Judy Fenner and lay ministry coordinator Mary Ka Kanahan will participate in the service with their husbands.
Kanahan confided, half-jokingly, that she was lobbying for a new ring -- not just a corsage -- but wasn't sure she would be successful.
Neither would have planned a renewal of vows for themselves.
But they said that a service in which several couples affirmed their marriage vows together would strengthen the congregation's commitment to marriage.
After the service, everyone will be invited to stay for a potluck covered-dish "banquet."
The church will provide the cake.
Nursery care will be available.
Information: the church at 410-465-2919.
A Valentine's dance, sponsored by the Mount Hebron Presbyterian Church, will be held from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. Saturday at Ellicott City Lions Club, 5005 Waterloo Road, Ellicott City.
The Blue Moon Big Band will play music of the 1930s and 1940s. The band's 18 members rehearse Monday evenings in the church sanctuary.
Band director Rob Leonard promises to play "My Funny Valentine" and many slow songs.
Admission is $20 a person or $30 a couple and includes snacks and soda.
A cash bar will sell beer and wine.
The event will include a silent auction of Oriole tickets, dinners at restaurants, flowers and chocolates.
Pub Date: 2/08/99