Thank you and a partial rebuttal of the rant

Firstly, may I say thank you to everyone who took the time to read and comment on the rant I posted yesterday. I am slighty intimidated by the number of views. Possibly because it makes the niggling idea clearer that the next project should be to write more formally and helpfully about how one copes with life on one’s own. Also because I hope I haven’t offended anyone that doesn’t deserve to have had their conscience pricked. There are two families in my last church who have been kind and thoughtful, accepting my hospitality as well as inviting me into their home life, with whom I am still friends. And I do have wonderful, understanding and affirming friends in other places. All you who offered commuting-nightmare rescues: you are on my radar now!

Several people asked what their church can do to be more family-like. I don’t have a lot of answers but I will attempt to think some out here. There is an difficult tension between busy families desperately trying to carve out time together for themselves and a church asking them to share more time with others. You may take the view that the former is selfish and the latter understands the meaning of hospitality; or you may not.

So here are some quick thoughts. Are your social events family-oriented? Is it really a bring-and-share lunch with people all mixed up together; or do families and cliques sit together excluding people at a loose end? Do your housegroups meet only at times
convenient for those with children?

I’m not really into dinner party culture, but I believe this operates on the even-numbers principle – us oddly numbered folk make your tables untidy, or something.

Don’t assume just because we live on our own that we are not busy. My life is crammed (and yes, I know, I brought the PhD stress on myself). We are not just spare bodies to be drafted in when you need someone vaguely human. I have actual talents and gifts, you know (see blog posts passim!) So, churches, please take the time to get to know and understand me.
Equally; don’t not ask us to help! So yes, asking the impossible here of you.

Does your church include the everyday in its prayer intentions? In 6 years of church in Colchester I’ve only once heard a prayer for non-elderly people on their own.

That prayer said, ‘we pray the singles will feel valued.’ Well, you know, God does value me (so I am told). It’s not Him that’s the problem. And I’ve got a very well developed sense of my own self worth, too. So what is it, exactly, we’re praying for here?

This is partly why I like services that follow a format as its prayers are far more personal and meaningful.

I’m aware my rant yesterday paints me as the poor martyr so I feel I should point out that I am actually quite difficult to like. I am terribly impatient, wanting to get everything right first time and change the world overnight. I expect you to disapprove of me, so I put up barriers. I stopped going to services with anything remotely social years ago so I don’t offer you an awful lot of scope to get to know me or me you. I make terrible jokes and get my words in a muddle making it hard to start a sentence coherently. I forget you don’t do ‘networking’ in the same way as I do, and you disapprove of online nonsense. I talk drivel and I grind my own axe whenever I can. I don’t let you get a word in edge ways and I make as many assumptions about you, as you do me. I want new people to accept and understand me as well as old friends instantly (did I mention the impatience?) I shy away from people who are ‘difficult’. I make snap judgments about you, taking unintended slights personally and deeply (well, really, how hard is it to spell my name right?) Added I have a shaky spirituality and a wobbly faith. Foundations are there, but the ‘unfairness’ of things baffles me. So as I rant against the world expecting it to change, I should examine too where I am going wrong.

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18 thoughts on “Thank you and a partial rebuttal of the rant

  1. Thanks for raising these important issues.

    I wholeheartedly believe that for the church, and individuals, to grow (in all ways), we need to build relationships. How can we work together if we don’t know each other? How can we use and encourage people’s skills and gifts if we don’t know what they are? How can we encourage and support one another if we don’t know where each other is at?

    We will only get more comfortable if we feel safe and truly cared for.

    We love you as you are!

  2. Hi Sara, I think you are likable, in fact I like you. I admire the fact that you have the emotional courage to live alone. Personally I am not handling very well, the situation of not having any children at home anymore. I have had 30 years of a full house, at one point there were 6 of us living here, and its now gone down to 2. So only being one is quite scary to me, so well done!

    As for the church and family aspect, maybe its time to change your church? I have been to loads, and when I move to a new area I seek out the ones that envelope you as soon as you walk in to the service. Perhaps it is because I am non-conformist, but I seem to find churches that actively offer fellowship and a welcome to anyone no matter what the family circumstance. My brother is single and gets “adopted” by various of his fellow church (actually its Chaple, he lives in South Wales) members, invited to meals, and around for coffee, offered lifts to services. Maybe we Welsh are more gregarious?

    I go to a methodist church, here in my village, and prayers encompas a wide range of people and circumstances. Often the minister will ask in advance who or what needs to be prayed for. Could you appraoch your minister and ask if he/she could slip in an appropriate prayer for people living on their own? I do wonder, also, if you were asked to help because it was someone’s way of trying to include you in “the fold”. They may well have spotted the skills and talents that you have that they think would benefit the church, the young people, and ultimatley you. They propbably had no idea that your life was so full.

    Don’t know if this response is of any help. Another suggestion is look for someone in the congregation who may be a like minded person, and target them as an alli. Or simply ignore this if you think it is load of drivel.
    Marianne

    • It’s not drivel, thank you for taking the time to post your thoughts. I guess I wouldn’t mind being asked to do things that I know I can do well/ have a gift for; but being asked to do kids’ things just because I happen to be there, seems a bit wrong. See you soon and good luck with the job applications.

  3. I don’t think you are difficult to like. I think you are funny and clever and kind. I lived on my own for several years but wasn’t at church then so can’t really empathise there. Your posts have made me think about how we could do better in church, and I thank you for that.

  4. I was really pleased to see your rant yesterday! One of the contributing factors in me leaving a traditional Methodist Church & ending up at a trendy evangelical Anglican church was because the latter was full of people who were single & struggling with it. At the former, everything stopped for school holidays and lunch invitations were rare. The assumption was that I would do Guides (I rarely got home in time for it) or the youth group.

    But I’m discovering that vicar school is very similar in some ways to the situation you describe. There are 3 single women in my year, and 1 man. Everyone else is married, most have kids. When we’re on residentials there are lots of prayers for those being missed at home/missing their family. No one was missing me! Not sure there’s much that can be done about that…

    Stay strong and keep ranting!

    • I completely see how having people all around you missing their ‘home’ is hard. If you are like me you take your ‘stuff’ with you, so if I am on a weekend away that’s 100% what I am doing, not constantly calling home or wondering what I am missing elsewhere. So when people do that, not only does it make me feel inadequate company but it also shines a light on the fact that there’s no-one to bother with. I’ve seen this at conferences, left alone in the bar when everyone else dashes off to phone home.

      My old Colchester church did the same stop-for-holidays thing. I barely notice school terms, and I’ve not been on a summer holiday for about ten years, so those things are pretty irrelevant.

      Thank you for being kind about the ranting, between us we’ll change the world. Eventually.

  5. I think you are perfectly likable…but i appreciate your transparency and self-awareness (i could probably do with a dose of that)….

    It is hard being single in a church context and trying to express that while you may/may not be comfortable with that ‘relationship status’ that you are more than that and that expressions that you feel left out are not being a martyr, but rather sharing how you feel with a community that has expressed a desire to care for you.

    Gosh, that sentence was long.

    I’ve had more of an opportunity lately to ‘know’ loneliness. I like being by myself, but feeling lonely is something entirely different.

  6. Anna – I like your distinction between the knowing loneliness, being by yourself and feeling lonely; I’m in a similiar place where I’m trying not to suffer loneliness but enjoy the solitude. It is indeed hard being single in a church context.

    • Absolutely agree with the distinction between revelling in solitude and railing at loneliness. I had a marvellous quiet weekend, mostly silent and mostly by myself, which was calm and restorative. Yet had I had that at home, I’d have been climbing the walls and crying out for someone to talk to.

  7. This has got me thinking. When I joined my church I was single and I was made very welcome by lots of people but I think it was probably because although they were couples and I was alone they didn’t have children (or in some cases their children had left home being the same age as me). I also think that our church has become more and more about families as the pre-school grows. I am quite sure I wouldn’t have stayed if I had arrived now (not sure that makes sense!).

    My personal rant revolves around the ‘Ladies Group’ and the ‘Mens Group’ which is something that I can’t stand. It smacks of Evangelical keep the woman in her place type ideas. I also largely prefer the Men’s Group activities! Am I right to feel like that though? Does it make it more accessible to single people? Perhaps I’m just not girlie enough. I just think arrange a variety of activities open to anyone and if more men want to go a brewery tour than women then so be it, but if a woman wants to go don’t turn her away (bitter? Yes!) oops in intended pun.

    By the way my ‘dinner parties’ (meals) are obviously far too informal and I regularly have odd numbers – not that cooking has happened for a while now.

    No answers just ramblings.

    • With you on the men’s and ladies’ groups thing. There is a men’s gang who get to go to the pub, but nothing similar for women. It was suggested there should be a Wives and Wine group, you can imagine my response to that. So yes, I think I agree with you on the ‘not girlie enough’ – suspect we’d both rather be in the pub with a pint than doing something Church Lady Appropriate…

      • Another reason to love my affirming Anglo-Catholic church here then – no groups segregated by gender. If I ever came across a church with them I think I would back out very speedily.

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