Being single in the Church : insights from history and personal stories
Today the numbers of single people in Britain are mushrooming. It is predicted that by 2020 they will form 40% of the total population. This thesis seeks to discover why this is happening and to learn from the personal stories of single people to see how the Church may better minister to this vital section of society. After a brief historical survey of Irish monasticism and the impact of the Reformation on the nuclear industrial family, the thesis discusses the impact of the Victorian author and of the Hollywood film industry on traditional notions of romance and marriage. These are contrasted sharply with prevailing contemporary post-modern views where relationships are often portrayed as temporal and vacuous. The thesis then enters the arena of real world research, exploring the issues of singleness with fifteen Christians - men and women of various ages, most of whom are single, although a number are (or were) married. The primary focus of the interviewer is “What is it like being a single person in the Church today?” The answers are wide-ranging and fascinating, touching on a number of important contemporary topics, such as loneliness, internet dating and sexuality. Of particular note is the research suggesting that many church-going single people do not feel supported or understood by their faith communities. In fact some find church to be one of the most isolating places of all. The author carefully weights up the evidence (including the biblical materials) and in the final chapter offers a strategic model for the contemporary Church. Where there is a humble community which values friendship and encourages people to discover their own gifts to serve God, then all of God’s people - and not merely single people - are most likely to flourish.