Bride, groom and Zoom brought together as self-isolating clergyman leads brother's Sunderland wedding virtually

When a clergyman set to lead his brother’s wedding ceremony was told to self-isolate, the solution was an obvious one in our pandemic times – bring him in on Zoom.

By Fiona Thompson
Saturday, 24th July 2021, 5:24 pm
Updated Saturday, 24th July 2021, 6:10 pm

The Reverend Chris Howson, who is chaplain at the University of Sunderland and based with the city’s minster, was given the frustrating news as the date of the marriage between his brother Leslie, 36, and Anna Appleyard, 42, approached.

But with a little bit more organisation, the plan came together so that Rev Chris could still play a major part in the day by appearing on a video link screened on a big television, while Canon Provost of Sunderland Minster Stuart Bain stepped forward to help with the ceremony in person.

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The happy couple pictured during their wedding ceremony at Sunderland Minster, as Reverend Chris Howson, the groom's brother, and Canon Provost Stuart Bain led the service. Photo by Zoe Heslop.

In addition, the Howson’s other brother, Reg, 52, was also told he had to quarantine, which led to Anna’s son Benjamin, nine, stepping up as best man, standing alongside the brothers’ nephew Callum, 20, as they helped the service run smoothly, while Anna’s daughter Lucy, six, was bridesmaid.

The church community rallied round to ensure everything was arranged and ready to go and to help those celebrating to follow Covid rules in place for the event.

Many others also tuned in through a virtual link after being unable to travel to the service, including friends in Australia, due to the ongoing restrictions on numbers and travel plans.

It also featured the lighting of a candle for Anna’s son, Ethan, who died as a baby, and others for dear ones lost.

Reverend Chris Howson was still able to help lead the marriage ceremony of his brother and new sister-in-law thanks to Zoom.

The news that Rev Chris could not preside over the day was a blow to the couple, who live in South London, after they chose the historic church in the heart of the city due to their family link and the fact Sunderland was their first trip together as a couple.

Rev Chris said: “Despite the pandemic, we were determined to let nothing get in the way of a great wedding.

"Thank heavens for Zoom!

"It meant I could jointly conduct my little brother's wedding, and made sure that Leslie and Anna got a proper Sunderland blessing at the start of their married life together.

"At Sunderland Minster, we like to make dreams come true.”

Primary school teacher Anna and gardener Leslie, who is heading into a career in stone masonry, have sent thanks to those who helped.

Speaking before the service, Anna said: "Leslie had one wish, he’s been easy going about the wedding, but the one thing he wanted was for Chris to marry us.

“We thought we’ll wheel Chris in on Zoom and he would be a bit of a double act with Stuart.

“I think I’m quite laid back but this has been stressful.

"It has been very different, we’ve had a lot of restrictions including on numbers, and then there have been high rates in Sunderland, and we’ve even had to set up a dance zone.

"Benjamin was really excited to be best man, as long as he’s by Les’s side, he’s happy.

"The church have been absolutely amazing, they have all rallied round.

"For example, yesterday some of the guys who Chris helps as asylum seekers came in to set up, people have sorted out flowers, we hardly know them, but they have been so kind.”

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