A survey of single Christians in church does not surprise me at all. Single Christians often feel ‘isolated , alone and lonely’ in church. Single women feel they are seen as threats to married couples.
Why does this not surprise me? Because I was 41 before I married, and I experienced some of this. I was told that marriage was ‘the norm’, which made me feel abnormal. There were questions raised behind my back about my sexuality. To some extent, things changed when I began as a minister, because one of the positives about that was to find myself on the receiving end of many kind offers of hospitality. But I also heard married Christians say they did not think I would be able to help them – without a thought for all the single Christians who might feel that married ministers could not understand them.
I have reflected in the past that there is an assumption in the world that you are not fully human unless you are having regular sex. Since the church usually confines sex to marriage, that is adapted to a notion that you are not fully human unless you are married.
What are your experiences? Do you have some better examples, some stories of best practice?
After all, it’s ironic how often we don’t notice that our Lord and Saviour was single.
I married fairly late (mid thirties) and got particularly irritated by the constant assumption that only women were single (books for dealing with singleness as a Christian tended to have chapter headings like “a maiden all alone” and “the men in your life”) and by the fact that the way the church only recognised “father” and “leader” as valid roles for men. Your point about sexuality is on the ball too: I often commented that when I was 20, single and conservative every mother wanted to introduce me to her daughter; when I was 30, single and radical every mother wanted to keep me away from her son. To be honest, a lot of that came from the pulpit. I remember once hearing prayers for “Husbands, wives, children, widows, widowers and divorcees”, and when I pointed out that they had missed out single adults the minister replied “Well, this is a family church, so we don’t really have much to offer them.” No, not even prayer, it seems. And I came to *loathe* the term “family church”…
Thank you David. I am tired of the assumption that single is abnormal. I may be eccentric but singleness does not mean weird. When I look at some of my friends’ difficulties I see advantages in the single life. Singleness is meant for some, marriage for others and we should all be part of the church family.
It’s perfectly possible to be married with children and embedded in the day-to-day busyness of the church…and still be ‘isolated , alone and lonely’. Some people just tend more to that state than others. Yes, I am speaking from personal experience.