I’m still getting used to not working on Sundays and realising that church services are something I really have to push myself to go to. Although this has been the case for pretty much 90% of the time I’ve lived in Edinburgh I’m still not used to the loneliness of going to and from church. I think because when I first started going in Aberdeen I hated missing church, it was a community affair and Sunday was my favourite day of the week because of it.
I’ve had a few chats that have got me thinking about religious practice lately. Chat number one was about the concern over prophetic words being spoken over children by people in positions of authority. My friend and I feel lucky that when we became Christians we were part of a church that taught us to weigh these kind of things up – never to just take someone’s “Word from God” as fact or definitely being from God. We were taught to discern and pray and ask God about it. Sadly, this is often NOT the case, and as a result children are sometimes burdened by words spoken over them they believe must be true.
Chat number two was about singleness and relationships. I grow increasingly concerned about the culture in the church where kids (and adults!) are taught to ‘pray for THE ONE’ and marriage and children are things that must be on your life to-do list. I’ve watched a few friends now who have rushed into engagements and marriage – I believe driven by fear of being alone or feeling like a failure. I’m thankful that some of those friends had courage to realise that and break off engagements. Others have had to go through painful divorces. It has been awful to watch. The simple fact is church ministries tend to be designed around families that look like a husband, wife and kids. I will confess it’s an alien idea to me, as my family always included members that weren’t blood related. My family holidays were with my Mum and her three single friends or her best friend (another single parent) and son. My birthday parties tended to have those friends at them – sometimes helping my Mum make party bags and serve sandwiches, jelly and ice cream. Often as single people we listen to sermons that make constant references to parenting and marriage. We are led by married people. We are treated like children. Young people get sermons to pray for their future spouses and make wish lists to sleep with under their pillows. And I’m glad that it’s been several months since the last woman in church came up to me to say “Oh Laurie, I’m praying that you find a good husband one day, I really believe that he could be just around the corner“.
Truth is, I would love to marry and spend my life with a guy if we were compatible for such a thing. I consider myself lucky to have made some good friends in Aberdeen and in Edinburgh that have lived out healthy marriage to me. And taught me that if I did get married I don’t have to become a stay at home mum if I don’t want to. However, I also believe that being single gives so much opportunity to live life and serve God and others.
I never want to marry someone because I’ve settled for someone just because they seem interested in me and it seems like a better idea than living alone.
Which brings me to my point. Marital status shouldn’t ever mean being alone no matter what it is.
I’m lucky that I have two families in particular that I get to be a part of. We exchange gifts for Christmas and birthdays. I’ve made cupcakes for their parties and been on road trips with them. I’ve wiped poo off their kids’ bottoms and sponged puke out their hair. We’ve gone to music gigs, we’ve celebrated New Year, they’ve taken home bags of rubbish when our wheelie bin got too full after my birthday party, we’ve gone on holiday together, we’ve shared books, ideas and tried to put the world to rights. I’ve prayed with them, I’ve read their kids stories. And the nicest part is that they don’t make me feel like a leper or avoid certain conversations just because I’m not married or a parent. They’ve text me when they’re exhausted from their kid not going to sleep for months on end. I’ve text them when some random guy on a bus has asked me out on a date and I’m not sure how to respond to that.
But I hate how on a Sunday we seem to get segregated into families, married couples, students, 25+ singles, widows, high school students… it doesn’t feel like community to me. It feels isolating.
Sundays are the only time I wish I was married with kids.
The rest of the time? I’m content with the life I’ve been given, and happy to see where it ends up…married eventually or single forever. Because in my world, singleness doesn’t mean aloneness.
At least I hope not.
How can we make church more of an inclusive community?