So I’m pretty much in love with Green Street, if you didn’t already know, but now there’s even more reason to love it.
Each year, Heather, Green Street’s office manager, has to report our “congregational make-up” to the higher UMC folks so they have an idea of what Green Street’s membership actually looks like. As she began it this year, she realized something wasn’t quite right.
Single. Married. Widowed(?).
These were the choices for relationship definition. For our community, as I would suspect for most communities, these three definitions totally under represent who we are.
Think about it:
- There’s the parent who is single, but that’s totally different from being just “single;”
- There are folks in long-term committed relationships who chose not to get married but are certainly not single;
- There are folks who would be married if they could be but state law says no (would be if we could be);
- There are engaged folks who fall somewhere in between single and married;
- There’s the woman whose husband has died but doesn’t feel widowed because to her she’s still married, he’s just dead.
So Heather decided to change the definitions. With some help from the congregation, currently just a core group of six of us or so, she is expanding the allowable family definitions. It’s a pretty simple project that has profound implications.
At the meeting last night, we thought about using the broad terms “partnered” and “single” and then narrowing as we went. So Marianne and I would be partnered/engaged, in October we become partnered/married. For other folks that might look like partnered/committed relationship or single/single dad or simply single.
Eventually we want to have a solid 10 or so options and then let church members check the boxes that feel right to them. Or don’t. We’ll have blank spaces too where folks can write in their own definitions. It’s not that we want to be silly about all this, but we do want folks to have the option to define themselves.
Again, think about it:
- Congregational Care can be greatly improved if we know how folks identify (ex. having a single parents group or a group for engaged folks or being able to grieve with someone who’s partner of 25 years died but we never knew because they never claimed the”married” title because technically they weren’t);
- Physically seeing that there’s a space for all types of folks in our church may make it more likely for them to stick around;
- It may help current church members become more engaged in the life of the church.
This also has implications beyond Green Street. I think once people begin to see that their relationship is valued inside the church, they may be more likely to claim that relationship the rest of the time. Once you empower people, even just a little bit, suddenly it’s not enough to let the status quo fly anymore.
So the question becomes, “how do you define your relationship, or do you?”