As the pastor was about to bless the newly wedded couple, he asked if they had brought the ring. The bridegroom fished out two tiny shiny gold rings. In turns, the two exchanged the rings amid ululation.
Uncle Jimmy, who found himself in the church after close to five decades of absence, could not understand the meaning of exchanging rings. He watched quietly, wishing he had the authority to tell the pastor to speed up so that he could join his friends for a drink. His presence was simply to represent the maternal side. Though he had seen many Christmases, he had never seen his own parents, now dead, wearing rings.
Pastor Joster Kauwa of Preacher Pentecostal Church based at Chirimba, Blantyre, said a ring is a sign that someone is bound to marriage and controls of their spouse.
“Frankly speaking, women are prone to dating and men can cheat as well, but a ring brings conscience not to fall prey or date someone while wearing a ring. It differentiates the married from the unmarried,” explained Kauwa.
He said his church asks its followers to use round golden rings because it is a precious metal and symbolises that a wife or a husband is precious.
“Round shape shows that the bearer has gone around the world searching for love and has found satisfaction and gratification in that particular partner.
“A ring’s shape is not supposed to be taken for granted that a marriage will not end because of late we have seen people getting married at cheerful and colourful weddings that collapse within days. Sustainability of a marriage is a personal choice though God is the overseer of our lives,” explained the pastor.
Kauwa quoted Genesis 2:18-22, which says: “The Lord God said ‘It is not good for a man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him’…But for Adam no suitable helper was found. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and close up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man and he brought her to man.”
Jacinta, a till operator at one of the chain stores, agrees with the pastor and sees no problem with marriage partners exchanging rings.
“Culturally, the wearing of a ring is a sign that you are married. Apart from that, it also sends the right message to the opposite sex who may be interested in you,” said Jacinta
However, Seny Gulumba, a lecturer at Malamulo College of Health Sciences, said a ring has no significance in marriage and his church concentrates on moderation and inner beauty.
“It is better to be free from a ring’s influence, but I know of those that take the ring as a sign of marriage, especially women, but I ask them to exercise moderation and understand that a ring is only a sign, so it should not be mistaken for a marriage bond,” said Gulumba, who quotes Philippians 4:5, which says: “Let your gentleness be evident to all”, in support of his view.
“The ring should not be exaggerated and be taken as beauty lustre,” added Gulumba.
However, 1 Peter 3:3 says: “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes.”
A Presbyterian, who asked for anonymity, seemed to agree when she said: “A marriage vow is bound internally not externally by ornaments or jewelry.”
He concluded: “People should not wear rings as a signification, but the checks and balances that somebody is married should be in one’s heart because that is where love belongs, not cheating your partner by simply wearing a ring.”
“With changing of culture nowadays, exchange of rings is optional and is just the same as wearing of veil,” explained Sheikh Chiyenda of Islamic Information Bureau.
“What Islam insists on is the paying of the dowry to the bride and it is she who charges,” said Chiyenda.
However, with fashion, so many people are seen wearing different rings. Some wear big rings on almost each finger while others wear a small one—even difficult to be noticed—on one finger. With these two different types of rings, how can people differentiate the married from unmarried?