Traverse City Record-Eagle

Body & Soul

February 15, 2014

Single Is Not A Sin: Churches deal with confusing, complex modern love

TRAVERSE CITY —“Baggage.”

Cards printed with the word rested on every seat in the chapel. Parishioners would have to claim their “baggage” or at least move the card to sit down for Sunday’s service at Bay Pointe Community Church.

It’s not just any baggage – sexual baggage. Childhood abuse. Pornography addiction. Abandonment. Ragged scars and generational burden of divorce. Heavy, minefield-strewn stuff for any conversation – much less one inside a church.

Those seats would see some serious fidgeting come Sunday, predicted Linda Lewis.

Talking about sex and its modern facets — in church or otherwise — makes people squirm, said Lewis, the church’s Care Ministry Director. But you still have to do it, as relationship issues plague people like nothing else.

“We took a survey and asked people what they needed help with,” Lewis said. Responses were no surprise to the licensed marriage and family therapist of 30 years. “It was overwhelmingly love and relationships.”

Other findings: 42 percent of their large, 500-plus member congregation is single, and mostly older than 35.

Being single wasn’t “the plan” for most of them, said Chris Bornschein, who runs Bay Pointe’s Single Adults Ministry.

It wasn’t his plan, either, but it happened anyway, he said. Bornschein is divorced, as is Lewis and a number of others on the church staff. Their battle scars make them empathetic ears to folks going through similar experiences, they said.

“It’s sad to watch,” Lewis said. “These are grown adults who are successful in many ways — bank executives, gourmet chefs, business owners — who can’t understand why they fail in relationships.”

Another finding (Lewis quotes from Christian sources): Divorce is just as common inside Christian churches as it is outside of it.

So, what’s the answer? Or rather, what’s the question?

“Marriage: Why bother?” tackles relationships in six parts. Bay Pointe is halfway through the series, which continues through Mar. 9. Its foundation is to help parishioners avoid two common pitfalls: over-idealizing or undervaluing marriage.

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