Singles Are Not “Lonely Hearts”

This came in the comments this morning as a response to a pastor who referred to the “Lonely Hearts Crowd” being one she thought might come for Christmas morning services:

Somewhat off topic, but I’m a bit bothered by the term “Lonely Hearts Crowd.” It feels a bit shaming, especially within a group of people who wouldn’t criticize on the basis of sexual orientation, weight, physical limitations, income, or any of those other distinctions by which the world seeks to categorize. My hope is always that church is a place where I’m accepted as being in relationship with my Creator and my community, even if my romantic life is marked by failures and disappointments. Do I really need further labeling by those who call themselves my pastors?

I could not agree with you more. It felt like a mockery to me, and uncharacteristically insensitive for a woman I know to be a wonderful minister. The Boston Globe just had an article featuring singles who choose to spend the holidays with their chosen family rather than their blood kin. Mighty Christian, that concept, eh? Loving those outside your “tribe?” I know that for myself, trying to endure a Christmas with my family of origin was always a “Lonely Hearts” experience while being alone never felt that way – just peaceful, tranquil and joyful. Seeing friends that day is just icing on Baby Jesus’ birthday cake.

The January cover story of Boston Magazine also features singles-by-choice, a concept that pastors need to bring to our congregations and deal with ourselves. I remember one colleague in my former district who was so desperate to get married, I wondered how she could minister to singles in her congregation when she so obviously had internalized being single as a failure and was openly miserable about being unpartnered.

And speaking from personal experience: not everyone with an active dating life is looking for “the one.” Therefore, there is no need for elaborate expressions of disappointment when a relationship ends. Coupled people need to learn to listen to the singles around them. Times have changed and so have relationship needs and expectations.

10 Replies to “Singles Are Not “Lonely Hearts””

  1. My apologies if my expression was hurtful or angering. Don’t know if this helps any, but I was thinking primarily of people who truly felt ALONE at Christmas, and were feeling sad about having “nowhere to go”. I don’t put all single people in this category, and judging by the folks who came to our service, you can feel this way as a couple. Still, I will be more careful in future.

  2. Or, you could come to a service, just wanting to come to the service. Think I’ll shut up now.

  3. “…being alone never felt that way – just peaceful, tranquil and joyful. Seeing friends that day is just icing on Baby Jesus’ birthday cake.”

    Shhhhh! You’re giving away the secret!

  4. “Therefore, there is no need for elaborate expressions of disappointment when a relationship ends.”

    But some of us *would* like pastoral care when we’re going through this. If you are sick or dying in my church you get all sorts of support, but if your heart has just been torn out and tossed aside nary a person says even a word of comfort.

  5. when I got divorced I went to law school – everyone assumed that I had gotten liberated, didn’t want to housekeep anymore and was off on a lark of my own – that my family was broken – that I left one child and took one child – that I was very sad was not noticed at all – even by our then minister who said “if you two didn’t have so much money you’d still be married”(we weren’t rich, just comfortable) – altho’ in saying all this I must admit that I am very proud and probably had a very good front at the time – I guess ministers have to practice being clairvoyant

  6. The assumptions that some folks make about divorce are among the most hurtful things of all, Nellie. I saw a pastoral counselor every week for over a year and can’t recommend it highly enough (pastoral counselors have both kinds of training), and yet, being alone on the ‘family’ holidays is still pretty painful.

  7. Pastors can be supportive, but we also need to have someone…perhaps the person hurting or someone close to that person…to tell us when it isn’t obvious. My local paper (a very small town) has asked people who have divorced to let the paper staff know so that an anniversary that is no longer appropriate isn’t published.

    If I notice that someone is around church when that person normally isn’t, I would say something to them…if I can without being obvious. Counsel them if needed. I try the best as I can.

    I had a couple divorce quietly. Even my church secretary didn’t know about it. We are not mind readers…help us help you.

    Okay…I’m off my soap box.

  8. I was the author of that comment, and I do appreciate that it’s hard to be sensitive to all states of human existence or know the right response to everyone’s situation. It wasn’t my intention to upset well-meaning people. The way I would express my own situation is that I come to church first and foremost to worship. Right now I’m blessed to have a great church home and community, but if I were to turn up, alone, for the first time at another church, the only thing I’d really expect would be a pleasant greeting and welcome. As a visitor, I’d say hello and belt out the hymns and listen with interest to the sermon. If there were a social hour, I’d gladly accept a cup of something and make some friendly conversation. That’s pretty much it. You wouldn’t need to classify me or counsel me or diagnose my situation. Just say hello.

  9. Being single or being married are both just part of the human condition. I’m married (second time around), and prefer it to being single — but have very happy memories of my single days, and some longing for the independence and autonomy.

    Please let’s not make any assumptions about the relationship between one’s marital status and one’s happiness quotient!

  10. When I was at seminary I was very happily single and chose to spend Christmas Day with a gathering at my church. We were an eclectic group of folks who had family but for whatever reason, we decided to hang out together for awhile. We had worship, shared communion and everyone brought “something” for a bit of a Christmas meal potluck. More sweets than anything, but it ROCKED! We began feeling marginalised, but finished feeling community.

    Now that I’m ordained (and happily married) we continue the Christmas Day gathering at the church where I serve. There may not be food or drink after church, but we do have fellowship time and often will invite the small group back to the rectory for lunch. It’s never anything fancy, but gives us an opportunity to be together, with no expectations, other than gathering to Celebrate the birth of Christ.

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