Saturday, 9 February 2019
This Sunday 10 February John and Tina Nichols, from the Catholic Parish of Guildford, will feature in a special edition of the ever-popular BBC Show, Songs of Praise, to celebrate Valentine's Day at 1.15pm. The couple, who have been married for fifty years and have been active in the parish Marriage Preparation programme for thirty years. They are also members of the Diocesan Marriage & Family Life Commission, and are recent recipients of the St. Philip Howard medal for their work as marriage catechists.
Being selected to be part of Songs of Praise was "a surprise and fun to do" Tina recently said. The BBC crew spent a day with the couple in January filming them at home, and then at St Pius church where they were filmed presenting a part of a Marriage Preparation session with three other couples. The programme makers were interested in the couple not just because of their long marriage but also because of their experience of marriage catechesis (a conservative estimate is that they have supported 750 engaged couples over 30 years).
Married in 1968 in the crypt chapel of Liverpool Cathedral, after having met at University, agnostic John "fell in love with Tina and pretty much in love with her family too" very quickly. They moved to Guildford with baby son Michael, and soon after another baby, Anna, was on the way but they tragically lost her in 1970. It was at this point that they particularly experienced "Christian love in action" from the parishioners of St Joseph's church and in such a way as to profoundly deepen Tina's faith. Children Anthony, Tim and Lucy followed in relatively quick succession. Married and family life was busy along with their respective careers in medicine and pharmacy.
Regulars at St Joseph's church, they were invited to a talk run by 'Marriage Encounter' in 1984 and then joined a local group which they are still a part of today. John said it was a means of "making a good marriage better", and that this and the Marriage Preparation courses helped them to make time for conversation, managing conflict, and to continue to understand each other better. They both feel that these marriage programmes have supported them through the ups and downs of family life and a marriage where one partner is not Catholic. It has also given them insight to help engaged couples in similar mixed faith relationships, which is a strength acknowledged by the Marriage and Family Life Commission.
Discussing their life with the Songs of Praise team and reflecting on their experiences the couple expressed their love for each other, their children and their seven grandchildren who keep them busy in retirement. They said that they "never stop learning" about each other and that they still enjoy the Marriage Preparation courses and have so much enthusiasm for it as it is "such a joyful ministry".
Our congratulations to John and Tina.
If you miss it on Sunday do go to BBC iplayer to catch up.