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love lightOnce again this year, Valentine’s Day happens to fall on a Sunday.  Now, this shouldn’t matter because it’s the first Sunday of Lent, and it isn’t an actual church holiday.

Yet, I have a feeling that some churches will be embracing societal’s yearnings by filling each little crevice of worship with mentions of this Hallmark holiday.  From my experience, I’ve seen how churches hold couples’ dances, talk about how wonderful marriage (especially heterosexual marriage) is and fill sermons and prayers for those who have already found their lifelong love.

But I’ve sat in the pews and attended churches where marriage (heterosexual ones, at that) were considered the ideal.  There didn’t feel like there was a place for this single gal… let alone our single savior, Jesus.  I felt crushed at times and even needed to leave the sanctuary on the random Sunday when the pastor gave a message marginalizing people like me.

Part of the reason I’ve started writing the Single in the Sanctuary feature and, down the road, book is to reinforced the need to validate people of all different marital statuses in the church.  One of the most-needed days of the year for us to be sensitive to the emotions of the unmarried (especially the ones who are not content as unmarried) is Valentine’s Day.

So church leaders – as you finalize your bulletins for this Sunday, remember the following:

  • A large percentage of those in our pews are not married.  They are single, divorced, widowed and cohabitating.  And each of them need our love and validation too.  We need to acknowledge where they are in their lives today – whether they have chosen their relationship status or life just happened to them.
  • 1 Corinthians 13 is not just about romantic love; it’s about something so much greater than marriages and couples.  The love chapter is about God’s steadfast, unconditional love.  It’s a love that we are called to have for each of our neighbors – not just our significant others.  Plus, this chapter reminds us that we need to love our neighbors, friends, enemies, significant others and everyone else as if we are looking through the eyes of God.  That’s more than any romcom could ever portray… although Mark Darcy telling Bridget Jones that he loves her “just as she is” comes close.
  • Shame is a piece in relationship statuses.  Still single?  What’s wrong with you?  Cohabitating?  Why can’t you just get married?  Divorced?  Why couldn’t you make your marriage work.  Part of a gay or lesbian couple?  Doesn’t God think that’s an abomination?  Having sex outside of marriage?  You are a sinner!  These are the messages that keep circling around faith communities.  Our job as the Church is to make sure that these messages are eradicated and that shame outside of the straight nuclear message doesn’t exist.
  • Pray for all marital statuses in this church – from the newly married couple, to the couple who are having challenges, to the single person with a newly fresh broken heart, to the widower experiencing his first Valentine’s Day alone.

Finally, Jesus was single.  What we believe we know is that he was never married.  We don’t know much else about this. We may wonder if he got his heart broken or if he just never had the time to get married.  But he brought together people of all marital statuses.  And that’s what we’re called today each and every day in the church.  The church isn’t just for couples or families.  It’s for all of God’s children.

Are you a progressive non-married Christian or a friend?  Please join in this new Facebook group “Single in the Sanctuary” for conversation and support.