My Manifesto post stirred up a lot of activity and emotion. It helped me release some anger, but it did more than that as well. Amongst the sea of comments, a few people shared their experiences in their wards, and they sounded great. I wanted to post some of them here to show everyone that there is hope for us, that church doesn't have to be so lonely and painful. And, maybe we can inspire local leaders, and each other to do more to make things better.
Ardis Parshall said...
It might be impractical to expect a single in the bishopric and RS presidency all the time, but having singles serve when available certainly does improve the lot of singles. My ward's RS *president* has never been married, and this is one of the best Relief Societies I've ever known.
Our ward recently went to a pattern of having three speakers rather than two in Sacrament meeting. It's amazing to see what that simple change has done for us singles. The old habit of ALWAYS having couples speak has disappeared, and as long as the bishop has to make multiple calls anyway, he tends to ask three unrelated people, regardless of their marital status. Not only does that mean singles are no longer invisible, but it also means we get real talks from both married and single: no more wasting half the time with family introductions and all the how-we-met stories that used to plague meetings when couples were asked to speak.
There may be change on the horizon in the Church...
Here in Huntington Beach,CA and in other stakes in SoCal we have an established "Midsingles" program where all 30-something singles in the stake, all attend the same family ward together. So there's family ward boundaries for families and all 30-something Midsingles in the stake attend as well. So my ward we have over 120 active 30-something singles in a family ward. So we're half midsingles/half families. We have Midsingles FHE, Firesides, Institute, Dances, Dinner Groups, etc, etc.
And Midsingles practically "run" the ward, so the lessons, talks, comments are geared to both singles and marrieds. In fact our Father & Son outings are called "Father OR Son" outing. If you are a father or a son you can go.
Also, the marrieds help us with our single activities and vice versa and we have "ward" activities for everyone. It's the best of both worlds.
Single parents can attend as well since we have a full Primary program just like any other family ward.
Since most of us have YSA roommates and hang out with them all the time, including joint FHE once a month, most YSAs transition over from one week to the next when turn 31.
Elder L. Tom Perry came to our last Stake Conference and fully endorsed our efforts with the Midsingles in our stake. Several other stakes are following suit. And soon all stakes in SoCal will have this program.
We also are developing seperate single adult programs for 40-something singles, 50-something singles, and Senior Singles 60+ so there's a continum of single activities for a little something for everyone.
1. I am 23, single, never married and I live in Beijing - we don't have a singles ward, but we have a very strong singles group - anywhere from 10 to 40 singles in our family branch of about 300 expats. The branch takes exceptional care of us and I wish that every single member could have the same experience.
2. I last spoke on Mother's day 2006, after 10 months of being in the branch. In our branch, there is usually either a youth, single adult speaker or both each Sunday.
The Beijing branch is exceptionally transient and people are moving in and out all the time, making it hard to keep track of people. There is one counselor in the Branch Presidency that watches out over the YSA like an auxiliary. We have our own Sunday school and usually an older couple to be our counselors. Everyone gets a calling. Most are self-contained. Within the YSA, there are a few Sunday school teachers, 2 reps, a secretary, YSA fireside coordinator, activity coordinators, FHE coordinators, and some people get pulled for "real callings" within the branch depending on the number of YSA we have at the time.
It took about 18 months of being in the branch before any of the singles had home/visiting teachers and assignments. The single sisters usually got paired up together to visit non-single sisters. Before I came into the branch, the RS president had monthly dinners where all the single sisters would be invited to in lieu of being visit taught.
6. I do have lots of significant relationships. The single adults is my primary social scene here in Beijing and most of the active single adults rely on each other socially.
9. I've always felt like an involved contributor who is very much welcomed and a part of the ward/branch I am in or if I start to feel otherwise, I act on it.
10. I realized a long time ago that I need to feel a sense of belonging in order to be happy and get the best experience out of church so instead of waiting to be welcomed, I've always taken the initiative to befriend other members and create a sense of belonging for them. It took 2-3 months of getting the scattered YSA together by organizing informal activities for them (after I decided that if nobody was going to organize anything to invite me to I had to do the organizing myself) before the branch presidency noticed and gave me the calling of activities coordinator. Branch pianist has been my default calling and I have Mom to thank for that. Whenever I move to a new branch, I look for every opportunity to serve through my piano playing and surprisingly, even in a branch full of people who can play the piano just as well or better, I will never run out of opportunities.
11. I realize that the Beijing Branch is an exceptional one and a great one to be a single adult in. The branch members here love the single adults and we're always getting invited over for meals (there are no missionaries here so the singles get all the affection and free food).
We organize a monthly fireside, usually held at a members home where we are fed before the fireside. There's FHE every Monday and Institute every Thursday and activities formal or informal are always going on on either Friday or Saturday. On Sundays, if we don't get an invite to member's homes, we (yes on a Sunday) go out to eat together. We're a really good group, and we rely on each other for friendship so we look forward to every opportunity to hang out together and are excited whenever someone new moves into the branch and adds to our numbers. I wish this could be the experience of every single adult within the church. It really does take just one or two people to take initiative and create that feeling of community within a small group of single adults and you could easily be that person.
Thank you for the wonderful comments! If you think I missed one that should be here, please copy and paste it in the comments.