Is the church erasing singleness?
A new book addresses the neglected area of singleness as an “unexpected gift” for Christians. Author Joelle Kabamba discussed The Unexpected Gift with Insights.
“As someone who has been single for quite an extended period of time and yet to marry, I was curious to investigate the stigmas surrounding singleness and delve deeper into whether it was a question of a shared experience between individual single persons.
“The different kinds of single people – how do their needs differ? Does a young woman who is looking to find a partner experience singleness differently from an older woman whose biological clock is nearing midnight? In what way does a woman who is single, because she has lost her partner to death or divorce, see the world differently from a woman who has never wanted to be married? “
“I was also intrigued about what circumstances evolved that saw these women find themselves on the path of singleness and how this impacts or transforms the way they now view the world.”
“As I continued to reflect I came to the revelation that every single one of us; every human being, will experience singleness at some stage of our lives. Singleness is part of the human experience and thus it is vital that we all come to understand and empathise with one another and ourselves on ways to navigate through such seasons, and do so in grace and strength. In a society that often projects negative connotations or dialogue surrounding singleness I toyed with the idea of writing a work that invited other Christian singles to learn what it means to not merely exist and get by, but to thrive in God’s kingdom. What if all Christian women could live powerful and confident lives enriched with hope and purpose, irrespective of their marital status?”
Ms Kabamba said that the book is focused on “the most underrated seasons of our lives” and that it contains, “a short call to Pastors and leaders on our mandate to help our singles to thrive in these changing times.”
“I take my readers to reflect on how divinely chosen and complete we are in God’s eyes [and] explore the stigma that’s been applied to single women historically and today.”
“This is a call to my readers to not only live but to thrive as a single in our communities by living a kingdom legacy, as we prepare for the ultimate wedding to end all wedding for eternity.”
For all of the book’s focus on singleness, Ms Kabamba said that she is not anti-marriage, but rather wants to see discussions about the church’s approach to be enlarged so as to be more inclusive of singleness.
“I believe in marriage, I just don’t believe it is the full story,” she said.
“The Bible does indeed cover many aspects about a life of singleness, much of what the church today has left out in their message is the significance of single-hood. Why has the church neglected this area? I would like to believe that the why stems from historical representation and treatment of women and our place in society. There has long been the misinterpretation of scriptures when it comes to some of the key issues found in scriptures, particularly in regards to women.”
Time for a fresh narrative
The Unexpected Gift, Ms Kabamba says, was “written by a woman, from women’s perspective, for women.”
“There is a big difference between a view that says women have an important, cherished role in society which may or not include being a mother, and a view that only sees a woman’s role as to be married and have children,” she said.
“Meanwhile women throughout history have often been limited by a patriarchal understanding of God’s word…Historically, the Bible has generally been both written and expounded from a male perspective, be it the Jew or Greek or through an Eastern or Western lens.”
“I believe it is time for a fresh new narrative on singlehood and singleness. As a community of single people we must reclaim our true identity and turn back to God’s original intent and purpose as single and individual beings which is far greater than just our marital status.”
The book comes at a time when the audience for such a project is growing, and Ms Kabamba says that churches have a pastoral need to respond to, namely the statistical growth in the the number of people identifying themselves in studies as being single.
“Statistically, the population of singles has been growing exponentially, there are people who are marrying late and more and more people are living alone,” Ms Kabamba said.
“Take for instance from 1986 to 2016, the single household went from 19 percent to two percent. In 2018 there were two million single households, the projection states in 2026 single households will surpass the traditional nuclear family.”
“This is the time to respond as Pastors and leaders and acknowledge and accept the change in demographics and act accordingly when it comes to presenting new fresh narratives. It is no longer acceptable to simply present the old sage template messages from the pulpit, we have a mandate to support all the different types of singles in our churches.”
Uniting Church theologian Dr Katherine Grocott explored the under-developed theology of singleness for her 2005 Honours thesis, A Singular Focus.
The Unexpected Gift is available now on Amazon.