A singularity of one

A singularity of one

My name’s Alex Taylor. I’m 46 years old. And I’m a man.

That seems a bit of strange thing to say as an opening line, but my name is unisex and there is the potential for confusion.

And I’m single.

Not divorced, separated or widowed, but long-term, never-been-married single.

I realise that this seems quite unusual – not really in the UK in general, where 28% of all households only have one person – but certainly in the Church. And let’s face it, the Church isn’t great with single people. We just don’t ‘fit’.

Let me take you back a few years. I’m sitting in a prayer meeting. There are clusters of people in small groups (we’re all close together, it’s quite a small room). We’re running through the list of prayer requests, which someone has just presented on a PowerPoint (yes, it was one of those ‘shopping list’ prayer meetings – don’t you just love them?). In fact, they’ve spent so long explaining everything that we’ve very little time to actually pray. At the end of the meeting, a woman turns round and says excitedly, ‘While we were praying, I knew you were behind me and I prayed that you’d find someone, because you’d be so dynamic if you had a wife!’


I spluttered some surprised and incoherent response and watched her walk out of the door, wondering what had just happened.

And I can’t shake the feeling that this is how lots of people in the Christian world view me and other single people like me. I have lots of stories where my singleness has been unintentionally belittled (while talking about joining the youth ministry team, someone asked me if I had a ‘Godly Christian woman’ as if it were a prerequisite to serving.) Whenever you go to a conference and you read the speakers’ profiles, male contributors are almost always married to a beautiful and supportive wife, with at least two lovely children. You never see a biography like this:

‘Alex Taylor is an enthusiastic baker, singer and fan of Bolton Wanderers. He is single and has no children.’

A single male friend of mine always found himself being volunteered to do things in the church – be on the PCC, do youth work, help with setting chairs out… It turned out that people thought he should get involved because he was a single and child-free man and so had lots of time to volunteer. His church obviously had the idea that he was sitting around, waiting for things to crop up to spend his masses of free time on, all because he didn’t have a wife and/or children.

And that’s just not true. Being single and child-free isn’t an empty existence. However, the Church and the Christian world works in couples and families, and never seems to understand singleness, male singleness in particular. It celebrates (quite rightly) the landmarks in life associated with getting married and having children: engagements, weddings, baptisms and christenings. But there are no such landmarks in the life of a single man. So you end up being volunteered for everything while nothing in your life is celebrated.

And to make it worse, some churches tend to lump all single people together into one group and treat them all the same, like some kind of ‘single’ ghetto. But single people are all different, with different life stories, different experiences of being single. There used to be an over-30s group at my church. I went a few times, but found it an unsatisfying experience because of the different needs of those in the group: there were those who were content in their singleness, but some had had singleness forced upon them, while others desperately wanted a partner and it had never happened.

These different standpoints can be as alien to each other as that of a married person. Those who are happily single and those who have to cope with singleness as an unwanted reality can have widely varying emotions towards romantic relationships. I stopped going because of this, and I’m not sure it’s still running.

I don’t want to be part of a ghetto – grouping all the single people together says to me that you don’t understand me, you don’t know what to do with me and hope that this is a solution to the ‘problem’. But my marital status is not a problem to be solved. As a single man, I don’t feel incomplete, but sometimes the church and the Christians within have treated me as if I were so, waiting for the time when I might meet a woman, get married and see all my issues resolved.

I love my single life and I love being part of a church. I want to be part of a church which values everyone regardless of their family status. I want to be part of a church which celebrates the achievements of all. I want to be part of a church where people from all backgrounds and family situations can mix and be support each other. That’s not too much to ask, is it?

This article was first seen in Mothers’ Union’s outreach magazine Families First www.familiesfirstmagazine.com
Photograph taken by Will Commercial Photography

What’s your story?

What’s your story?

Everyone has a story. Even if you think you’ve lived the dullest life there is, you’ve got a story. I remember listening to a guy who worked for Endemol, the TV production company (they were initially responsible for Big Brother, among loads of other popular shows). He commented that everything had a story, even something as basic as Deal or No Deal. Although there’s no conventional narrative, we buy into the story of the contestant and their game – the ups of getting rid of blues and the downs of eliminating the reds.

So, if Deal or No Deal has an engrossing story, how much more interesting is our own? We’ve soared and we’ve crashed, we’ve hurt and been hurt, we’ve gone through happiness and sadness, we’ve loved and we’ve lost. You may have been unwilling to share your tale because of those people who never seem to shut up about themselves. But, if you’ve never told it before, the people around you would love to hear your story.

So why not go beyond the ‘How are you? I’m fine’ conversation and tell your story? And if someone is telling you their story, listen. Really listen – you’ll probably find out something quite amazing.

Creative inspiration

Creative inspiration

I have a personal Tumblr blog, called Alex’s Creative Daydream (it’s where the company name came from!).  I don’t post very often, but I do visit the blog every day. You see, I use it as a kind of voyeuristic creative inspiration. At the moment, I’m following about 15 bloggers who post regularly – everything from an American obsessed with ‘olde worlde’ Britain (particularly the Sussex town of Rye) to a Spanish guy who posts pictures of amazing locations and landmarks from around the world. I picked these blogs up from here and there, many recommended by Tumblr itself.

There are three that I really like reading:

Humans of New York – this is a man who goes round New York, taking portraits of people whom he thinks are interesting in some way. He captures a sense of humanity and individuality in a city which can seem huge and overwhelming. There are some wonderful moments of poignancy and joy. He has become quite a celebrity, with the subjects of his photos often really excited that they will appear on HONY. At the moment, he’s on holiday in Iran and taking portraits there too.

Piano Across America – this man plays his piano anywhere and everywhere, in the company of his dog, Brando. When I first started following him, he was travelling across America, but at the moment, he plays in New York. He’s planning to make it down to Panama, starting out with just a tank of petrol and $2, surviving off money earned playing the piano as he heads south. It’s inspiring to see someone follow a dream like this – he gave up a lot to follow his dream of playing his piano.

Becca is Learning – Becca Dean is a great blogger. She strives to be real and vulnerable, and her posts are reflections of what she has learnt from her life, both formally (she is doing post-graduate studies in Durham) and informally. She is funny, honest and thought-provoking. And a shameless devotee of Instagram.

I think the point of what I’m saying here is be a bit voyeuristic* in your search for creative inspiration – absorb all you can, even if you don’t like what you see or don’t agree with what people say. Reach beyond your comfort zone and hear lots of voices: follow people on Twitter whose political viewpoints you don’t agree with. Read something by an atheist, Muslim or Christian. Switch newspapers/news websites for a day, walk in someone else’s shoes. After all, if you only see and hear things you agree with, then you’re never challenged and you ignore chances to grow. Only listening to voices you approve of can lead to a very narrow world viewpoint. I’m on the look-out for more contrasting voices, so if you know some, let me know.

And if you want to follow my personal blog, it’s www.alexbtaylor.tumblr.com. Who knows, I might start posting there more regularly myself…

*Not illegally, mind. I’m not advocating being a peeping Tom.