When Erika Davies and David Morgan met at NightChurch in Exeter Cathedral, little did they think that it would lead to marriage!
David had been a member of Exeter Network Church (ENC) when he was invited to join a new community meeting in the city's traditional centre of worship. Nightchurch, set up by the cathedral's then Canon Missioner Mark Rylands in 2007, was to offer a different way of 'doing' church on Friday nights within the medieval building. David explains:
I had worked with young people at ENC and was a volunteer with some homeless initiatives when I came to NightChurch, but it wasn't too long before my focus shifted away from youth projects to working with the homeless on a more regular basis. In the early days of NightChurch, we would get a brazier and have a fire at the front door of the cathedral to attract people in. After a few months it developed into a barbecue. I used to be a chef so it was natural for me to get involved in that!
It also led to a permanent job when a friend told me of a vacancy as manager of Big Issue Exeter office, and I got the job. I now oversee up to 75 vendors who sell Big Issue in and around the city.
The first time I met Erika was on one of our pioneer training meetings. We became friends very quickly, but it was no more than that. Then after about a year, we were at NightChurch when one of the Big Issue sellers I knew came up to me and said 'Is this your girlfriend?' We were very coy about it for quite a long time but it was when we were planning for a Good Friday event, and suddenly our planning session also felt like a date.
And so it went on until we proposed to each other on holiday. We decided our engagement should be private between us and God because we wanted our wedding to be at NightChurch, and so knew that would be a very public declaration. In saying that, we weren't sure whether it would be possible to get married there at all but as we met at Nightchurch, and were both very passionate about it, it made sense.
After checking it out, we found that we could not have a wedding after 6pm (only in exceptional circumstances can marriages take place outside the hours of 8am to 6pm). The plan is to have a wedding ceremony during the day at the Cathedral and then celebrate the marriage during NightChurch on 21st May at 8pm when we will be surrounded by family, friends, NightChurch regulars – and anyone else who happens to be visiting the Cathedral at the time. It will certainly be more open than most weddings, as we’ll have a lot of homeless guys and members of the public who will still be wandering in.
The bride-to-be spent three years on Mercy Ships before moving to Exeter in 2006. Her parents were part of the cathedral congregation and it wasn't long before Erika found herself preparing for the launch of NightChurch.
At first we'd all pitch in and do anything that needed doing but gradually I got more involved in the prayer side of things, and I became known as the 'candle lady' because I like to set up a prayer space with candles and so on. From that, it really crystallised into meditation.
As far as the wedding is concerned, it's wonderful because there are so many people who are really excited about it. It’s not about imposing what we want on NightChurch, instead it's nice to have the opportunity to share the preparations with many others. The problem with a lot of weddings is that you end up having to exclude people because you can’t afford to cater for them.
We'll have a wedding breakfast for close family and friends but there won’t be an official reception as such. Our celebration will allow us to share the experience in a different way. NightChurch is a special place and we want to reflect that on our special day.