FORT WORTH—The two largest Sunday school departments at Fort Worth’s Travis Avenue Baptist Church are the young marrieds and the senior adults. On Oct. 11, the two groups came together as the younger couples hosted an event honoring the church’s more than 70 couples and 30 widows or widowers married at least 50 years.
The celebration was so meaningful that Fieldon Williams arrived sporting two black eyes and staples in his forehead from a fall that had sent him to the emergency room days earlier. Williams and his wife Colleen, married 55 years, joined fellow church members for wedding cake, punch, nuts, mints, conversation and fellowship. Several couples brought wedding albums for guests to peruse.
“We’ve got everything you need to have to have a southern wedding,” associate pastor Bernie Hargis joked to those assembled. Hargis served as the event’s emcee, opening the program with prayer and recognition of the 180 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.
Offering congratulations to those who had been married a half-century, Dean said, “You are our heroes. The rest of us look to you as an example of what God intends for marriage to be. 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 resounded as Hargis next 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.
Kristin and Matt Sessoms, wed seven years, expressed appreciation to these marriage veterans. Sessoms, a marriage and family counselor, commended the “longevity of commitment” of those honored. Noting that the “average marriage for couples our age is about two years,” Sessoms explained that his work involved helping couples establish a “foundation for longevity.” Sessoms praised the older couples, saying, “You are testifying to us that commitment does work and following God’s plan does matter.”
Ray and Janis Raley, a couple married 30 years who joined the church as newlyweds, also addressed the crowd.
“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 said.
“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 fellowshipping with one another.
“You pray for each other. You hold confidences very dear and hold them fast. … You guys just love being together. It’s wonderful. You invest in the lives of those coming behind you.”
A time of intergenerational fellowship around the roomful of tables followed as younger couples asked questions of older couples. The conversations were both heartfelt and deep as one generation passed its wisdom to the next. The evening concluded with prayer and a group photo of all those in attendance married 50 or more years.
Michael and Meredith Hughens, members of the Travis Avenue newlywed class, handed out nametags. When asked what they hoped to gain from visiting with 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, 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’s Great Room are any indication, the celebration of marriage provided just that.