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belonging: singles, the church and valentine’s day

It seems fitting that the week before Valentine’s Day, I spent three days at a convent with nuns.

Each morning I was there, I did a spiritual direction session with a kind Sister who was in her mid-60’s.

We talked about Lent, following Jesus and being single.

At one point in our conversation I may or may not have insinuated that it was harder to be a single Protestant than to be a single Catholic.

Because I have essentially taken the same vows of chastity, poverty and charity….but without the community that a convent or monastery offers, and without a high value being placed on my calling.

If you doubt that this is so, just head over to the comment section of “Seven Reasons Why It’s Hard To Be Single In The Church,” the post that’s received far and away the most comments of any post on my blog.

I don’t understand how it’s possible that we follow Jesus, a man who was single, and we have a sacred Scripture that says it’s better to be single because you can do more for the kingdom — and yet singles in the church feel so isolated, discriminated against and alone.

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Marriage classes, moms groups, family fun nights, baby dedications, bridal showers….the list of things you get to do at church multiples exponentially when you’re married with kids.

I once cried to a friend that the only time the community will come around to celebrate me and mark a milestone in my life will be at my funeral.  I may be cynical, but I’m not wrong.

I was discussing why it’s hard to be single in the church with a pastor and he asked what solution I proposed.  Start a singles group?  Hire a Pastor of Singles?

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I shook my head.

Haven’t we been down this road before?  “Separate but equal” didn’t work in the era of segregation, and it doesn’t work in the church.

The rallying cry for Christians should be unity, not just equality.

So. I think as a church, we have two options.  We can do what this pastor proposed — we can start another group, hire another specialty pastor, organize more events to target a specific demographic.  In other words, we can keep adding more chairs to the table, more groups where people in the church can belong…but where does that end?

Or…..and this is what I suggest…..

We take all the chairs away.

There is no place you don’t fit, no place you don’t belong.  The table is open and we all feast together.

Paul says something like this in Galatians 3. “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus takes away the labels.  Jesus takes away the artificial reasons why people belong and don’t belong until there are no barriers, no borders, no prerequisites, no “in” crowd and no rejects.

Being married is great.  Having kids? Also great.  Being single?  Hard, but important.

No matter what our situation, we all need our community to celebrate with us in our good moments and walk with us through the low ones.

I am blessed to have lots of friends who are in different demographics from me (older, younger, married with kids, married without kids), and we all take care of each other (as evidenced by my married friend Reba, who brought me roses and breakfast in bed this morning and asked me to be her Valentine!)

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But, to be honest, most of my support comes from outside of the church.

My hope, my dream, my prayer is that we will create space inside the church where everyone is celebrated, everyone is cherished and everyone belongs.

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To read more blog posts about singleness, click here or here or here.

 

 

 

 

Thanks for sharing!

9 thoughts on “belonging: singles, the church and valentine’s day

  1. Okay. Yeah, I think it is harder – I often think it would be quite easy to live as a Monk, in comparison to living as a single in the world and church.

  2. My cousin Lisa Anderson just published “The Dating Manifesto” through David C. Cook on Amazon, etc. SINGLENESS with humor. You’d like it I think. Sorry I missed meeting you at Kim Fullton’s but I was in NYC that day celebrating my birthday a week early with my husband. I enjoy reading your thoughts and pray for continued unity in the church, in all areas of life, single or married (like me).

    1. Hi, Kirsten! Your cousin’s book sounds amazing :) Sorry I missed you in CT….hopefully I’ll get to meet you the next time I’m there.

  3. My older sister in Philadelphia sent me a copy of your post. I was stunned that it was like you had visited my thoughts and quoted me exactly in several paragraphs. I have said to so many nuns, “I am the same as you, I have embraced and lived the same vows, but I live in a community of One.” There is no community support. Normally , it does not bother me because i know that i have been able to serve the Lord everyday with all of my being. Yesterday, part of my anguish was that for the first time in decades, I yearned to be loved as I was reading all over Facebook, others were loved. I can say that mission in our congregation is the one table where everyone belongs. I love and embrace family, love being with others’ families, but often others don’t understand and exclude. As an ordained minister (36 years), I serve a small church with a missionary heart in Lockland, OH. I privately celebrate ordination as others do their wedding anniversary, but most do not understand, almost resent. God bless and be with you, Sarah.

    1. Thanks so much for the note, Dawne! Your ministry sounds amazing. I hope you’re able to experience community with others and intimacy with the Divine. Much love, Sarah

  4. “Take all the chairs away.” YES!
    Thanks for this piece, I agree with your comments about the church.
    I am also really glad for all the friends I have in my life with different relationship statuses. I learn from them and they learn from me. That’s a blessing.

  5. I was married at age 36, so I spent many years single in the church. I was involved in two different singles groups. The first one ended in my late twenties when everyone else got married. Then we had a new group of people in their 30’s. I fit in with the group, but felt I didn’t fit in the church, and also thought I’d fit in better once married. However the opposite happened, much to my surprise. The singles group actually made me feel more a part of the church. The church sponsored us, cared about us, and I had a great group of friends. Once I was married, I felt my husband and I, and the our daughter, sort of fell through the cracks. I think other things matter more when it comes to fitting in, for example whether you are an introvert or extrovert. So, that’s my experience from living both sides.

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