On the Care and Feeding of Spinsters, Part 1: Introduction

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In February 2012 I was asked to present some thoughts to the ladies at my church (Christ Reformed Evangelical Church in Annapolis) on how the church can better serve unmarried members. It was a tricky subject, as I wanted to be frank, but also careful not to come across as too self-serving or whiny. I had about thirty minutes to present, and six topics to touch on, so it was quite the rushed spewing of thoughts. Also, some of my thoughts are things I’ve never heard elsewhere, so if they sound crazy…they just might be! I pulled out a quote earlier today to include on my About page, and thought I’d share the rest of my notes with you. I’m going to republish them here in six installments.

ImageSeveral years ago, I was invited to contribute an essay or two to a book on singleness written by singles. The book never came to be, but I kept the essays stashed away in my files. One was entitled, “On the Care and Feeding of Spinsters.” Since it wasn’t published, I’ve plagiarized the title and some of the content, and tweaked a bit, and added a bit more to create these notes.

First, I want to defend my use of the word “spinster.” It just doesn’t sound very nice, does it? It’s too much like sinister, and it evokes the image of a nasty spider setting about to weave a snare. But the etymology of spinster is really quite innocuous. Before the industrial revolution, when thread still had to be spun by hand, the task fell almost exclusively to never-married women. And if that sounds like a terrible, drudgery-filled lot, just remember that everybody had to work very hard in those days just to provide for daily necessities. So I suggest that we reclaim and redeem the word. It speaks of usefulness, productivity and fruitfulness. It portrays a needed and expected role of steady industry. It reminds us of our call to be faithful, diligent servants even when the tasks at hand aren’t very glamorous.

Second, I want to note that this is a two-way street. Several years ago Nancy Wilson wrote on her blog, “I have sometimes told unmarried women to make themselves indispensable” to the church. My reply at the time was, “I’ve been aiming for useful, but indispensable sure has a nicer ring to it!” So…single women need to be about the business of serving the church, which I think is an important thing to say before I go on to talk about how the church can better serve single women. The topic might seem self-serving for me as a single woman to take up, but I was asked to address it, so here I am.

Third, although some of what I have to say will also apply to widowed and divorced women, my main focus will be on never-married women. And just as there are all types of personalities and interests and experiences among single women just as among folks of any status or stage or life, so the details of application will vary greatly. There are as many ways to apply the principles of love as there are people to love, so I’ve tried to paint in broad strokes. It’s up to you to get to know the individual spinsters in your life and figure out the details of how to serve them.

The most important way anyone can help unmarried women is to understand what the Bible has to say about us, and to base any applications on that, rather than going with the cultural flow or holding on to sentimentalism or assumptions. To that end, let’s look at some Scripture.

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I’ll add links to the other parts of the series as I post them:

Part 2: Jephthah’s Daughter

Part 3: The Little Sister

Part 4: The Widow and the Orphan

Part 5: The So-Called Gift

Part 6: He Sets the Lonely in Families

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