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.
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?
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!)
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.