Support for singles of all ages
Whenever there is provision for singles in churches it is often targeted at young people. Rev Eleanor Jeans is author of a course called Securely Single, which aims to help those of any age live life to the full, whether singleness was something they chose or not. She shared about her own experiences of being single with Premier’s Maria Rodrigues.
A lot of your friends were getting paired up or married; how did you find that at the time?
I have to admit, I found it really difficult. I was obviously really happy and pleased for them, and I enjoyed celebrating by going to the services and receptions afterwards, but there was a part of me that found it quite challenging emotionally. I was always a bit anxious about things like where I would end up sitting, whether I would I be put on a table with a bunch of single people as they tried to pair me off or if I would be put with all the children. They were always really good actually, as I've got some great friends, but there were times when it was really difficult. It has become much easier.
Were you honest with God about the difficult parts?
It’s an important thing to do, isn't it, to be honest with God about how we’re feeling. I often prayed that I would meet somebody, so he knew my heart, but whether I was honest about my feelings about it is a good question; I’m not sure I was as honest as I could have been.
Did you ever get to a point where you thought: “Have I done something wrong?” or “What's wrong with me?”
Yes, absolutely. Interestingly, the first week of the Securely Single course is: “Is there something wrong with me?” because I began to think: “Hang on a minute, that person’s got married, why have they managed it when they’ve got this, this and this wrong with them?” That's a really bad thing to say, but that’s how I felt. There was a sense of: “What am I doing wrong?” I think it does begin to affect your self-esteem and thinking – all sorts of things went through my mind.
Along this path, did you come across people who were modelling doing singleness well?
I did. I can think of a couple of people. When I was in Manchester, there was one who was a colleague who did ended up getting married in her 60s, and that was just wonderful. To be part of that wedding was really, really special, but she had modelled a wonderful life of service and love as a single person before that. Then there was somebody else who was younger, who was actually modelling being a leader in churches as a single person. So I certainly had role models, not many, but I can look back and see how important they were in my life.
So what would you like church leaders who are married to know about life as a single person in church?
Being single in a church, you can feel like you are the odd one out or that you are different. Often it can be that events or examples in services [sermons] or those at the front are married. It is important to think about how you use language.
One practical example for this present moment would be that if you are setting up chairs in your church for a Sunday morning where you’ve got people booking in, think about how you set those chairs up. If you set them up in big groups, and twos, and then there’s the odd one dotted around, that can be really quite hard to come into if you’re on your own. Where I’m associate vicar, we’ve decided to set up individual chairs, and then people can move them. It's just makes it a little bit easier for single people to come into the building. Think about how you promote those who are single in leadership as well.
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