Wednesday, August 13, 2008

I'm just trying to do this jigsaw puzzle

The singles ward of the LDS church is an interesting phenomenon. The idea is that the young, single adults of the church will be able find companionship and camaraderie with people at about their same age (18-31) and place (students and young professionals) in life, which is can be one of the most difficult decades of life. People tend to get a bit lost during all the changes and decisions that happen in young adulthood, and studies that have shown that most people who leave the Church do so between age 16-25, and singles wards are designed to combat that. Of course, this is a very optimistic ideal and it doesn't always come to fruition.

There's also the idea that the men and women in the singles ward will meet, fall in love, and get married. When my dad was in a singles ward bishopric, he made it clear (to me, not necessarily over the pulpit or anything) that marrying off the people in his ward was one of their goals. I'm totally fine with that, even though I've never even seriously dated anyone from any of my singles wards. In fact, that ward of my dad's (which I was in for its last two years) was so successful that it was eventually disbanded. There were only 50 people or so in the ward records, and only 50-75% attendance. One weekend, shortly before the discontinuation of the ward, we had three couples from our ward get married. I really liked that ward. I felt comfortable there and was friendly with everyone in it. I also credit that ward for solidifying my relationship with Fran. Long before it stopped existing, when I'd been in the ward for two years and five months, I really felt like I belong.

I have yet to totally feel that in any ward since. I was getting to that point in the ward I went to after the first one I mentioned, but then I moved far, far away. I've been in my current ward now for just over two years, and I still don't always feel completely comfortable there. I have made some good friends, for which I am quite grateful. Still, I often sit alone and have never accidentally/on purpose skipped Sunday School just to talk to someone (like Fran and I did on occasion). Also, I often feel like my conversations are still small talk, even with people who have been in the ward longer than I have. I don't blame anyone for this, and I'm sure there is more that I could do. I really like the people in my ward (especially the ones reading my blog, hi!), but it's just as not perfect of a fit as my ward was with my dad.

Eilonwy made some interesting observations about the maturity level of people in a singles ward. I agreed and commented that there is immaturity and self-centeredness, and I do include myself in this. I'm very certainly just as imperfect as anyone else, which is why I know I need to more to improve my experience at church. I can take advantage of the fact that I came alone to find someone else who did the same. They might feel the same way I do and would appreciate the company.

I also sometimes feel like the married adults of the Church don't know what to do with us. As I mentioned, we just changed to 2:30 PM, and moved to a new building. The building is no longer centrally located in the ward, or accessible by metro, which might make it difficult for some of our ward members. This last Sunday, our first in the new place in time, ended right after Sacrament, and we were given the instruction to get to know our new building. That seemed really strange and unnecessary, but I did appreciate being home earlier than I'll be for some time to come. I complained about the new time in the comments of another blog I read, and received this response from the mother of the blog owner:

AmandaStretch, you get the crappy time because you are single, meaning, without children,
Which, I'm sorry to say, kind of sounds like a punishment, like "That's what you get for waiting to get married." I'm sure she didn't intend it as a slam, but it's not the first time I've heard something like that. None of my singles wards have ever been in the building's rotation for meeting times. There's talk that we singles wouldn't come at the other times, because they're too early or too late, but I know that I, and most people I know, will come at any time because the church is not about us.

The good thing is it's not all about the social interaction. That's a big part, especially in a singles ward, but it's not the most important part. The most important part is the doctrine, and I feel like my ward is very doctrinally strong. I hear stories of testimonies being borne in their missionary language, long after they've returned home, and talks that have nothing to do with doctrinal topics at all. We have a few instances like that, and the occasional testimony that's treated like a stand-up comedy routine, but overall, I feel like we have a good focus on the gospel and I am often touched by a lesson or a talk.

I love this gospel, and I know that this where I belong - this house, this ward, this church, etc. I just still need to figure out where my puzzle piece fits.


Giggles said...

Speaking of changing buildings, we're changing again in two weeks.

During the summer we've been in a building that is actually in our stake, as have the other four singles wards in Tucson. But that's just been temporary. They keep the singles wards at the institute building and an older small building near the university, segregated from the rest of the members like some kind of ugly child you want to keep hidden. ;)

Those locations are central for Tucson, but for some of the people in my ward, that means more than 30 miles each way. It means leaving the boundaries of my stake, driving through a second stake, and attending church within a third.

I'm sure there is logic to it, but I don't get it.

Katie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Katie said...

Amen. To everything.
I had a friend who thought it was very strange that in our church a person is defined by if they have a family or not. I tried to explain, "Well, not really . . .but. . ."

Jasmine said...

First: I didn't know you had a blog! I'm so excited to blog-stalk you now! :)

Second: I totally feel for you! I never felt comfortable or "at home" in any of my singles wards. The ward I'm in now is the first ward I've felt like I belong in since my old ward that I grew up in (before we moved to Virginia when I was 15). I don't know that there's any advice I can give, but just hang in there! And you've got the right idea - church is about more than the people that go.

(BTW, speaking of weird testimonies, those don't disappear when you go back to the family wards - I've heard some doosies! I'll have to tell you about them later, though, cuz they're long-ish stories.)

AmandaStretch said...

I'm excited for you TO blog-stalk me! Yay!

And thanks to all of you for your comments. :)

Darin said...

Amen!! 2:30 church sucks!! And It's totally not fair to us. It's bad enough that they made us stay in the 1 pm slot without any rotation, but now, 2:30 is just heartless. Personally, I thought somewhere that it says we're all equal before the Lord (regardless of marital status--Sis. Dew sure harped on that). And, when I was a kid, my ward changed every year. We dealt with it. The McLean Stake should too.
You're right that it seems they don't know what to do with us, and I would add that it also seems like they think we're not mature because we haven't had the chance to get married yet. Not to make fun of kids from my high school who are still back home with 2-3 kids, but I think I've had a lot of opportunities for growth and maturity that have been mine because I didn't marry super-early--opportunities that will very likely make me a better husband and father in the long-run.
Now, I'm angry. I think I need to post something about this myself.