With a sense of, "we've made it..." we completed another marriage course in Perth last night. It's the first course we have hosted using the updated marriage course materials - which underwent a complete re-vamp last year. The basic format has remained the same, the seven sessions remain as on the original course (foundations. communication, conflict resolution, forgiveness, wider family, good sex, and love in action). Again as on the original course, the DVD, presented by Nicky and Sila Lee, has got several places on each evening, which contain pauses for couples to talk privately using the questions in their manuals.
As on the original course, it is very, very practically orientated, and (quite deliberately I think) wears the research behind it very lightly. What I mean is that while the Lees' have obviously read widely on subjects like social change, and the nature of contemporary marriage - they don't weigh their presentation down with endless footnotes (many more of which are cited on their leaders training days). Likewise, theologically the Christian and biblical assumptions which inform the course are not in-yer-face; it's certainly not a Bible-study course, by any means - and the talks are not a series of bible-quotations; neither is it suitable only for Christians. Nevertheless, the manual accompanying the talks reveals a lot about the biblical inspiration for the subjects covered, such as 'the power of forgiveness'.
The biggest change in the course (apart from the dropping of almost certainly fictitious but very funny Mr Gorsky story!) is that the presentation has been made a lot slicker than on the first edition. Not only does the dialogue rotate much more frequently between the two presenters, but they also cut a lot more often to filmed clips of couples interviewed about the evening's topic. The down side of this is that the more magazine format is so busy that the main points might not stand out so clearly, because it is all so engaging! The plus side is that the whole thing is of a good contemporary standard of production and presentation. From the perspective of hosts running it, we found that the timetable of the new material was much more demanding than on the original course. As there are more breaks for discussion and therefore shorter talks - the 'window of opportunity' for nipping to the kitchen to prepare teas, coffees and deserts to serve at the evenings 3o-minute 'long exercise', was on some occasions just too too tight to meet (and on the night our kettle packed up - totally impossible!). This is especially the case when on a full course we use the kitchen for a couples' discussions - so its completely shut except when we come back together to watch a DVD segment.
Mrs H. and I had hoped to do the course again ourselves this time, so refresh our marriage and to really get to grips with the new materials. I think on the nights we were just too occupied with the challenge of running the course to really be able to do so properly - and despite some great discussions in the breaks from the DVD we didn't manage to compete all the homework. So - we're planning to do some reviewing over the next few weeks.
Next Thursday I will enjoy the day more - and the evening less! I will enjoy the day more, as I won't be cleaning, tidying, shopping peeling spuds, checking DVDs, chopping wood, lighting fires, or serially filling dishwashers! Instead I will be going out for lunch with my wife! I will enjoy the evening less though, because Marriage Course evenings are great fun - especially towards the end of a course when the guests have got to know each other bit, and the banter around the meal table is increasingly entertaining. There's always a buzz in the air on a Marriage Course night - and I'll miss all the people who've been here over the last seven weeks. Falling asleep on the sofa (!) maybe more relaxing, but it's hardly as rewarding. The next discussion well need to have, is if and when to advertise it and offer the course again.