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Why single people may feel marginalised

17 May 2013


From Canon Wealands Bell

Sir, - It is unsurprising that "the single often feel ignored in church" ( News, 3 May), given the aggressively matrimonial tone of some of our language and practice. Phrases such as "shared ministry" to describe not the work of priest and people, but of clergy and their spouses, have become commonplace.

Our liturgical practice can similarly betray unfortunate imbalances: in our seating arrangements, do we draw ordinands and new ministers from the people of God, or from their own families? How often are the gifts of bread and wine brought to the sanctuary by mum, dad, and the kids?

This is not to diminish marriage and family life: by no means. Yet, despite offering marriage as a principal means for growing in holiness, the Church reserves baptism as the sacrament of new life in Christ: this can never be subordinated to another.

One way of ensuring this might be to make more of godparents: these were once the candidates' chief supporters, a sign that in baptism we move beyond the limits of the merely biological: "a change of identity is taking place, freed from the ties of this world" (Anselm Grün). Naturally, we remain uniquely conjoined to those with whom we share a bed-bond and a blood-bond (as Tony Harrison has called them). But among us all who share the bread-bond of Christ's body, the Church, there can be no second-class citizenry.

23 The Close, Lichfield WS13 7LD

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