This January marks the two year anniversary of the formation of the Potomac Ward, a mid-singles ward in my stake (Mount Vernon Stake in Northern Virginia, just outside Washington DC). There are hundreds of mid-singles (ages 31-50) in my stake and I am one of them. I have a love/hate relationship with my own status as a mid-single – just as I have a love/hate relationship with the Potomac Ward.
The ward has seen much success; many of my single friends attend the congregation, enjoying the spiritual comradery of other singles, the quiet sacrament meetings, and the wide range of activities. The ward impacts my single too – though I prefer to attend my family ward in Alexandria – because its critical mass dictates the lion’s share of single’s “goings on” in the stake.
The Potomac Ward has acquired its own church building, which it shares with the two YSA wards in the stake – and this, in my opinion, is unfortunate. I can appreciate that congregations of singles have different logistical needs, but I feel the negative side affects of a separate place of worship outweigh the positives of large classrooms and activity spaces. In this set up, the singles congregations are separated from the main body of the church on the sole basis of their marital status. This is a strong message to the single individual that they are different and “removed from”. Some individuals worship away from the main body of the church for up to 20 years and their unique experience in singles congregations deny them of continued experiences with children, couples, and elderly members.
I think the annexing of singles also has a negative side affect on the family wards, who do not enjoy the dynamic personalities of single individuals. Because singles are removed from them, stereotypes grow and integration dwindles. (And, in the case, of my family ward, which is small, we feel the lack of talented singles who could help fill much needed callings.)
So, to family wards everywhere who feel the lack of single association, I dedicate these comments (and suggestions) about singles. I hope that you will find them useful in integrating singles into your wards and lives, that we may be one in Zion.
Singles are Happy
*Gasp* It’s true, though some stereotypes indicate that we are continual sad as we await our marriage. The singles I know live full, happy lives with fulfilling careers, involved extended families, meaningful service, and interesting hobbies.
Singles are Different from Each Other
I know this should seem obvious, but stereotypes are strong, lumping singles together in large categories. Primary is a good example. A married friend once told me that her ward puts all its single members in as Primary teachers “because they are the only ones not exhausted with children during the week.” While many singles are not involved with children during the week, that doesn’t necessary mean they enjoy children on Sundays. And some do. Conversely, many married individuals I know enjoy involvement with children during the week AND on Sunday. And some don’t. These differences extend to career choices, friendship connections, desired interaction from Bishops, etc.
Singles are first, Individuals.
Singles have Life Experiences beyond “Being Single”
In his 2011 talk, Forget Me Not, Elder Uchtdorf told the story of a single woman who became sad and bitter when her lifelong dream of being married was not realized. This story was later turned in to a dramatized video which horrified many singles because of its dark images of single loneliness and one sided representation of a single life: the fixation on getting married. While some singles would like to be married, this does not consume our entire lives. We are involved in many other things, as I have indicated above, and many other relationships – platonic heterosexual relationships included. Discussions with singles can including dating AND a wide range of other topics like church, politics, hobbies, travels, books, sports, family, education, career, etc.
Singles Look for Connections Beyond their Single Friends
I loved being invited by members of my family ward for dinner, movies, game nights, and children’s recitals and Birthday parties. Many of my friends do too. I like being including in mixed groups of different types of people. I try to extend invitations as well.
Singles Look for Meaningful Church Service
One of my single friends recently to her bishop, “Give me something meaningful to do!” And he did. Enough said.
Back to the video dramatization of Elder Uchtdorf’s story. It seems to indicate the being sad and grieving for life’s unmet expectations is a bad thing and individuals who grieve demonstrates a lack of gratitude for the gifts God has given. I think this is unfortunate. All people grieve over life’s unmet expectations. Grief is messy and hard, but necessary. The loss of a spouse and/or family is huge and can be recognized and supported. Supporting each other in grief rather than offering a “consolation prize” is a good way to go. I believe we can be happy, have gratitude, AND feel loss and anger. I see many people hold these varied emotions at the same time – single people included.