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Inverness Marriage Preparation and Enrichment

More  and more  work is being done by Christians across the country and our own region in the field of preparing couples for marriage and in enriching existing marriage relationships. And Inverness is no exception.
Couples who are embarking on marriage often do not appreciate that "being in love" does not necessarily mean that  they coincide on the whole variety  of issues that impact on a relationship. A degree of compatibility regarding major life choices (where to live, whether or not  and when to have children, how to achieve a  sensible work-life balance) is very important if  a relationship is to stand up to the various pressures that life can, and often does bring.
For those who are already married the demands of work, home and a family can often put pressures on an otherwise healthy relationship. Time spent together can diminish in the face of daily commitments; and communication can suffer amongst the constant demands of the daily routine. It could be argued that for the Christian couple, there is the additional dimension of church activities.
In the late Spring of 2006 Christians Together set up a training day for local Christians who wished to embark on this type of work. And allied to this others had been making their own investigations regarding the materials and programmes which are available to assist in this type of ministry.
At a national level, the Alpha organisation has developed 'relationship" resources to sit alongside those already available from other Christian sources.  Whilst Care for the Family have produced a new resource called 21st Century Marriage (see below).
Amongst those who are delivering 'couple' sessions are Colm and Isobel Black (Hilton Parish Church) and George and Elsie Normington (Inverness Christian Fellowship).
Colm Black
Christians Together recorded an interview with Colm about the 'relationship' work as part of the Hilton Family Project; and you can listen to this interview by <clicking here>. Colm is using the Prepare/Enrich materials but also using material from a variety of other sources. (Note 1.)
He is encouraging other couples to become involved in bringing their own experiences of 'being married' into play in order to work alongside others in this area of ministry.
Colm has had a letter to the Inverness Courier published (13/11/07) as "Editor's Choice". The letter was a response to a recent Courier article about the renaming of Marriage Counselling Highland to become "Relate Highland" (Note 2.)
George and Elsie Normington
Meanwhile George and Elsie Normington have been working with married couples using 'The Marriage Course' which comes from the same stable as the Alpha Course.
And this is the course chosen also by Owen and Kate Morris of Christian Outreach Centre.
Owen and Kate
Of the Marriage Course, Elsie says:
'The Marriage Course' consists of one session per week for seven weeks.
We went to the marriage conference at Holy Trinity Brompton which we would recommend in order to learn how to facilitate it properly. However, a training video is also available. (Note 3.)
The course can be delivered anywhere - restuarant / church hall, or in a home as we have done since we do not have a church building and a restuarant was too pricey especially if young couoles were paying baby sitters.
We have run it in our home and it is done Alpha style which starts with a meal then a short DVD presentation. There are usually three DVD clips which participants watch throughout the evening.
Following that each couple goes into a separate room so they have privacy to do the excercise on the topic. The privacy is really important. They are all given a manual each and there is the opportunity to give a donation towards the overall costs.
The final session is "The Marriage Party" where people invite friends to the meal and watch a short recruitment video for the next course.

Some of the typical comments from couples participating in marriage programmes around the country have been:
Made us discuss things we had not thought about. Thank you for all your work
I have really appreciated and been impressed at the detail you have gone to in planning this course...
It has helped me to be more aware of my husband's needs. I think you all did a great job.......thanks for the great meals!
Excellent course - full of good advice and useful tools
Course was run very well. I liked the intimacy being able to talk together freely in private. If it was in a hall I think it would lose the personal feeling and the freedom
Really liked the home setting, liked the separate rooms to talk......
Suspicious of the course at the beginning but very pleased to have done it. Good tools provided to use and to build / enhance our marriage
Most important things learned - Appreciating how my spouse feels loved
How much of an 'interuppter I am!'
Still learning things about each other - I love my husband even more than I thought I could
Learned what my spouse was actually looking for from me
To always communicate , to listen to my husband without interupting and to have 'marriage time'

In addition to the Marriage Course, the Alpha organisation has produced The Marriage Preparation Course for engaged couples.
Meanwhile, Inverness Christian Fellowship use the FOCCUS materials for marriage preparation work. (FOCCUS  is supported in Scotland by Scottish Marriage Care - formerly Scottish Catholic Marriage Care).  Whilst Billy McLaughlan of Inverness Church of God uses a programme developed by the American military.
Both the Prepare/Enrich programme and the FOCCUS programme utlise an "inventory" system which explores - through participants privately and strictly confidentially marking up a questionnaire - both the strong points and also the areas for development in their relationship.
A recent addition to the range of resources comes from Care for the Family. It is a DVD-based series with an accompanying workbook and further details of the 21st Century Marriage can be obtained by <clicking here>.
The course covers topics such as:-
* Knowing we matter
* Acceptance
* When everything screams out, “It’s over!”
* Time for love
* When sparks fly
* Dealing with debt
* The affair
* Love in the real world

With the variety of programmes and materials available there is an excellent opportunity for Christian couples who feel a calling to work of this nature. And the newly-launched National Couple Support Network makes additional support available.

If you are interested in any of the above organisations and courses you can be in touch with them directly; or those locally who are using the material. For general information and news updates, or if you are interested in attending a local training session for the Prepare/Enrich programme, contact Christians Together for further details of the local scene.
Note 1. There is a wealth of material and programmes which can be used to match most situations. Whilst the integrity of the work relies on the quality of the material, the real benefit of engaging with couples in a supportive role is the interaction, and the need in the mentoring couple is a sensitive approach allied to "lived experience". Good preparation for each session/course is also vital. See also Note 3.
Note 2. Relate is a secular organisation and takes no moral position. In an effort to be 'open to all' the word 'marriage' has been mainly dropped.
Programmes like Prepare/Enrich incorporate elements which cover participants' spiritual beliefs; and there is opportunity - as and when appropriate - for a Christian mentor couple to introduce a spiritual (Christian) dimension and supporting materials.
Note 3.  Whilst training is advisable when using many of the available resources and programmes, it is not always easily and affordably accessed, so it is good that a pool of experience is building up locally. Additionally it is sometimes possible to get national trainers to come to the Highlands e.g. the Prepare/Enrich session in 2006.
Allied to a good understanding of the particular programme(s) are the essential ingredients of -
Note 4. Some programmes are delivered to individual couples on their own. Others can be used in a group setting. Most programmes run over a series of sessions over a set period.
Note 5. This overview (centred on the work being done in the Inverness area) obviously does not include all that is being done in the work of "relationship support". Nor does it cover other areas of the Highlands and Islands where valuable work is ongoing. 
If you are currently running any of the above programmes (or other similar programmes) based on a Christian view of marriage, please be in touch so you can be included in this section of the Christians Together web site; and so that others can benefit from your observations and experience.
You can also leave any comments below.
The Marriage Course and the Marriage Preparation Course web sites have "course finder" sections which list contact details and course locations. (Author: )

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