A confession: The article I wrote for the fall edition of The Persistent Voice titled, Issues of Justice, Family, and the Single Person was written out of that traditional Lutheran category that gets the better of us from time to time, angfechtungen! A senior in seminary knows that the journey from internship back to “life together” is an odd journey filled not only with the grief of losing people that you served and that sustained you for a year, but also homework, and call paperwork, and resumed relationships, and the like. Contextual theologian that I am, I wanted to ask the question, what does this journey look like in my own embodiment as a single person?
Something else was happening out in society while I was over in my corner of the church contemplating all of this. The Pew Research Center came out with a study on marriage trends at the end of 2011. The study results were published under the headline, Barely Half of U.S. Adults are Married—Record Low. The study gathered results in four categories: Married, Never Married, Divorced or Separated, Widowed. The study reports, “In 1960, 72% of all adults ages 18 and older were married; today just 51% are.” The study also shows that the median age for entering into marriage is on the rise with women on average marrying at 26.5 years of age and men marrying at 28.7.
This study made it in the headlines of major news outlets once it broke. Kari Haus wrote an article for MSNBC.com, Where is Mr. or Mrs. Right? Matrimony Suffers Slump—Report Shows. NPR jumped in the conversation too with a report titled, When it Comes to Marriage, May Say Don’t.
Café, on on-line publication of the ELCA had an article written by the Rev. Kelly K. Faulstich in February of 2012 titled, Not Better, Not Worse, Different. Not Harder, Not Easier, Different. The Café article beautifully articulated the source of my angst. Faulstich writes about “singleness” in scripture (Moses goes up the mountain, Jesus goes to pray). She writes about the freedom of choice a single person has over even the smallest decisions in their lives. She ends by recognizing what is true of us in our baptism: “We are complete.”
In January of this year I took time to gather my own thoughts on the subject of singleness in the church. I dug into scripture, looking at the way that the two creation stories address the relationship between men and women. I read back in history of monasticism studying the companionship of Jerome and Paula. I studied Luther’s view on marriage and read through blogs that talked about singleness in more evangelical communities. I studied the marriage rite in Evangelical Lutheran Worship and read the work of professor and social scientist, Bella Depaulo.
Here is what I came to find regarding my initial angst: It is about vocational dignity. The LWF Chicago Statement on Worship and Culture so eloquently reminds us that our baptisms, experienced within a community, verify our “dignity” and our “vocations in Christ.” I found the exercise of this study to be powerful in my own understanding of singleness and marriage—not only the ritual moment—but also marriage, the vocation. Never before had I considered my own singleness to be part of my current vocation. Singleness and marriage are two vocations among many given to the baptized.
I appreciate how the rite of marriage found in the ELW points to the commitment the couple makes one to another, the faithfulness of God, and the support of the assembly. Even in my singleness, I experience the community of the church similarly: there is support of my vocation, the faithfulness of God is likewise for me, and the support of the assembly is graciously given.
 Accessed 10 April 2012. The Pew Research Center. http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/12/14/barely-half-of-u-s-adults-are-married-a-record-low/?src=prc-headline
 Accessed 10 April 2012. MSNBC. http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_news/2011/12/13/9425241-where-are-mr-or-mrs-right-matrimony-suffers-slump-report-shows
 Accessed 10 April 2012. NPR. http://www.npr.org/2011/12/14/143660764/when-it-comes-to-marriage-many-more-say-i-dont