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Tackling singledom in the church

ON A MISSION: Val Bernard has taken an interest in the so-called ‘crisis’ of singleness in Britain

THE ISSUE of singleness in the church, or rather Christian women being unable to find life partners, has been a long-standing one.

And one woman hoping to shed new light on this area is motivational sociologist and lecturer Val Bernard, who teaches at Dauphine University London and Bracknell and Wokingham college.

She will be hosting Drawing Moses from the Water on Sunday (May 20) at Balham SDA church, where she will discuss findings of her PhD entitled It’s Not Good to Be Alone, Singleness and the 7th Day Black Single Woman, plus share in- sights on how black women can change their single status to married.

STATE

It is said that 65 per cent of black Caribbean British women are single, 59 per cent have never married and 59 per cent of black Caribbean British fam- ilies are currently headed by a lone parent, normally a woman.

As far as Val is concerned, the community needs to be concerned about this state of affairs. She said: “This is a crisis of epidemic proportions and the impact has been huge.

“Such high levels of involuntary celibacy among our women, the economic instability of our community, the difficult and challenging experiences of our youth, especially our boys. It has to stop and it will.”

Val’s forays into the lives and attitudes of single women began when she started making preparations to marry her first husband.

She recalled: “I distinctly remember conversations with some of my Christian black Caribbean girlfriends who were happy for me but also lamenteing the fact that they were still waiting for ‘Mr Right’.

“I then had personal experience of singleness when this marriage broke down.

“So my concerns and interest intensified and eventually found direction in my research on single women. My interest has continued to grow.”

Her research saw Val carry out in-depth interviews with single women from the Seventh Day Adventist Church as well as looking to the historical and social reasons why some found it difficult to find life partners.

The key findings of Val’s research were that:

Black women believe that productive adulthood is expressed in marriage
The idea that marriage is ordained by God caused spiritual problems for some women when they can’t find a partner
Although women found living a celibate life difficult, they felt it important to maintain their celibacy as it demonstrated spiritual strength, and research has relevance for all black Christian women.
The ‘strong black woman’ stereotype complicates their quest to marry

As far as Val is concerned her research has relevance for all black Christian women.

She shared: “By highlighting the racial aspects of singleness, the findings make an important contribution to illuminating British black women’s singleness as a marginalised identity within the church and within wider society.

Although Val will be using her event to share the strategy black women can employ to transform their marital status, should they desire, she does feel churches have a role to play in supporting women.

INVOLUNTARY

“They need to take the high rates of involuntary singleness of black Caribbean women seriously and to recognise their contribution to the church despite a profound sense of emotional deprivation and include singleness in the curriculum in their training centres colleges and universities,” she says.

Though there are women who believe finding a life partner is an impossibility. But not Val. She believes when one has faith, it can happen.

“The ultimate way to exist is to seek intimacy with God. It is also the best way to see the destruction of strongholds so that we can really embrace the truth that ‘with God all things are possible’ and so we can boldly embrace the good things that life has to offer.”

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