Actions speak very loudly

From a comment on another blog. (Read the post too, but this particular comment resonated strongly with me.)

I’m a single in my early 50’s. I used to sit in the chapel, but found that no one would sit on the same row. In a few cases, if I sat on the end of a row partially occupied by a family, they would get up and move. And I shower every day! Now I sit in the foyer, and it’s a lot quieter than the chapel.
I have noticed that when being greeted in a group of other adults, it goes like this, “Hello Brother Smith, Sister Jones, Mark, Brother Brown”. I’m referred to as though I was still a little boy.

I used to wonder if this was unique to me.  After all, it’s happened to me in at least a couple of different wards now.  Before reading this comment, I’d spoken to a few of our inactive mid singles, and a couple of them had cited this same phenomenon among the reasons they felt out of place and unwanted in Church.  In a way it’s comforting to know I’m not the only one, but also very disturbing to see that it is apparently somewhat widespread.  For all the talk of singles being an “important part of the Church family,” we’re often treated as outsiders.

I even tested the theory that maybe I inadvertently picked an unpopular part of the chapel to sit in, and over the course of a month, tried four other parts on both sides of the center aisle, front and back of the seating.  Always the same result; there was a minimum two seat buffer on either side of me, and usually one row in front and back of me that stayed empty unless we had visitors (who didn’t realize I was single) or Spanish speakers (I guess the bulletin on the contagious nature of divorce didn’t get translated) to fill some of those seats.

Lately, I’ve been catching the evening service at one of those “casual” churches each week, because a friend invited me and while I’m no fan of “praise band” music, they do have very good sermons.  Today’s was about the most important chair in any church; the empty one that should be filled with a new member, a guest, a returning inactive member, or just a regular member who couldn’t make it this week.  That chair represents two things to the congregation in general; first, that there is room for those people, and second, that we need to work to fill that chair.  To the single surrounded by those chairs, though, it represents a strong chance that there will be another empty chair soon.