Couple wed thanks to special seal of approval

A TERMINALLY ill man was able to marry his partner of 11 years thanks to a dedicated vicar and the seal of approval from the Archbishop of Canterbury. Father David Stephenson was able to marry Ian Cook, 66, and his partner Mary, 65, in the living room of their home after writing to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, for a special marriage licence to wed the pair. Former truck driver Ian, from Rossendale, was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer just before lockdown began and is expected to enter a hospice over the coming days.

Mary's daughter, Sarah Nuttall, said it had been Ian's wish to make her mum Mrs Cook before he died. She said: "Unfortunately, mum and Ian were unable to get married at Burnley Registry Office as they had planned to do because of the coronavirus and social distancing rules. "But I wasn't going to let that happen, I wanted to make sure the two of them got married as they wanted to do.

I was so determined to find a way." Ms Nuttall started thinking about other ways to make sure the nuptials went ahead, calling on friends and colleagues for advice. Before long someone suggested she contact her local vicar to see if there was anything he could do, and that's when Father David became involved.

Within 48 hours he had contacted the London Faculty Office of the Church of England and was granted permission to wed the couple. Ms Nuttall said: "I e-mailed him in such a panic and within five minuets he had rung me back. He could see how desperate we were and immediately wanted to help us.

"And from that point it was like a jigsaw. Everything just fell into place." Father David married the couple in their Rossendale home with the windows and doors open so family outside in the street could hear the proceedings.

Afterwards a short socially distanced celebration took place outside in the garden, where the bride and groom sipped on champagne brought to them by Father David as a gift. Sarah said friends, family and small local businesses in the area all stepped in to help, offering to decorate the garden, make a cake and ensure Mrs Cook had a bouquet of spring flowers. She said: "We even had pizzas delivered.

"It was a real show of solidarity from everyone and it was a lovely day. "We can't thank Father David enough, he went above and beyond, he really did." The vicar, who is a parish priest in Haslingden and Helmshore said he knew he wanted to help the moment he heard from Ms Nuttall.

He said: "In times of darkness any little chink of light is very powerful. "And in the midst of people dying and being fearful and anxious and afraid, to see this is a wonderful thing. "It was a very powerful experience.

"It was great for me as well because I'm working remotely - which for a vicar is a very unnatural thing. "But to be with Ian and Mary and a small group of people - celebrating with all that heart was a reminder of the goodness and the light that can come from dark situations. "For just a few moments everything else was forgotten and it was just about the two of them being married."

The Bishop of Burnley, Philip North said: "From my point of view I was really pleased that Father David was able to act so quickly. "Even with all of these lockdown restrictions this was possible to go ahead. "I just feel like this is a really lovely, adept bit of Christian ministry to meet this couple's needs so quickly.

"It makes me very proud."

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