Childlessness, childlessness at Easter, Church, divorce, Easter, Easter Morning, Easter Worship, family, Family worship, non-traditional family, progressive Christianity, Single, single in the sanctuary, Singlehood, Widowed, young families, young families in church
In 2008, I attended Easter morning worship with my mom and dad at a progressive United Church of Christ congregation in the greater St. Louis area. The sermon was engaging. The music was magnificent. Everything about this Easter morning worship was spiritually meaningful.
But I was distracted… and distraught.
Family three rows up. Family six rows up. Family in the second from the front row on the other side of the sanctuary and two rows behind me too. People of approximately my age sitting throughout the church with their spouse and their two or three small children.
And here I was… nearly 35 years old and sitting with my parents on Easter morning sans husband or children. Even though I was with my lovely parents, I had never felt more alone. At no point that morning did I feel anyone made me feel bad about being single or childless. While some people at some congregations may stereotype people in my situation, I absolutely didn’t feel as if people were looking down upon me.
But I was looking down upon myself. What’s wrong with me? I would wonder over and over again to myself. Of course, when we are emotionally raw for any reason, it’s easy to place blame upon ourselves. Life and love hadn’t happened in the way I wanted it to by the age of 35. It was as simple as that.
Nonetheless, my feelings were very real that morning. And they threw me for a loop.
Between 2008 and the time I met my boyfriend, I began to make some peace with this singleness in the sanctuary. But it never became 100% easy, and Easter morning just happens to be one of those times I wonder if I missed out a little by not having children. Bubbling youth bring about a certain energy into families and congregations, and even those of us who are 85% sure we are fine with not having children get a little emotional when surrounded by what we once wanted.
Which makes me wonder: How can we truly experience the resurrection if we are so distracted by what we don’t have, what we haven’t accomplished and in what ways we don’t fit with our congregations?
Easter morning may be a time when we hope that God will lead us to new life, new possibilities and fresh beginnings. But there could be people in our congregations that feel like an odd person because they believe their marital status or family structure stands out from the crowd. They may feel alone even though people surround them in the sanctuary.
Bless them with a greeting, with the peace of Christ, if you see them sitting alone. Bless them with an request to sit with you as they may feel just a little less alone. Bless them with an invitation to lunch or coffee hour.
The sealed tomb in which they find themselves in may start to crack open as beams of light begin to find their way beyond the shadows.