My Church Turned Me Away Because I Was A Single Mom

Thursday, March 24, 2016

It's true. My church turned me away, because I was a single, teenaged mom.

Not directly from worship, mind you- they were fine with me attending services (and dropping money into their collection plate). It was being part of the inner-workings of the church that was a problem.

I was 18, and trying to support my son alone. He was less than a year old. I had separated from his (teenaged) father, and was attempting to brings some focus into my life. I was a prodigal daughter, having been inconsistent in my church attendance during my teen years. But at this point, I had been faithfully attending church for months.

This was the church I had attended since childhood. My mother was not a church goer, but I went regularly with a neighbor. I had been baptized there, and at the time I was not only going to church, but partaking in Bible classes and group activities.
There was an opening for a helper in the after school program, and the helper could bring along their child if they had one. 

I applied, and was instantly denied. 

No interview. 

I didn't think too much about it, until someone off-handedly remarked that I hadn't been hired because I would be a bad influence on the kids. 

I was floored. 

I was floored because the woman they ended up hiring had also become pregnant before marriage. She married the father of the child, and then divorced him very quickly afterwords. She was newly divorced when she got the job. 

She was only a few years older than me, and had also been a "teen" mom. 

What about her influence? 

The rejection stung for a long time, and it eventually soured my relationship with that particular church.

As an older, wiser adult, I understand a little more about why I was denied employment. I understand that an after-school program in a church has a little more at stake in terms of "keeping up appearances". People brought their children there expecting a certain moral standard. Economically speaking, having me work there was a potential problem.

But at the time: I felt abandoned.

I drifted away once again, embarrassed and ashamed.

This was a good church, with a solid grasp of theology. The pastor was extremely knowledgeable, but honest enough to tell me when he didn't have an answer to my many questions. I not only spent my Sundays there, but many other days as well. I fondly remember cutting images out of donated greeting cards to make collages and running through the playground trying to avoid the thousands of red ants which lived underneath the swings.

It is the church by which I judge all other churches. The church where I learned to love the Law and the Gospel. My identity as a Christian was formed singing the liturgy -- through it I felt connected to every Christian who had ever lived.

And I believed they had abandoned me.

It was like a lifeline being thrown and then quickly pulled out of your reach. I was so close to the shore.... I could almost see "normal". There was a part of me which believed if I could just spend more time there, maybe I could fit in enough that people would see past "teenaged unwed" and I'd just be a mom. A mom who loved her son and wanted what was best for him, just like every other mom.

This is one place where a love protest could be most effective.

We can mimic the attitude of the "Prodigal" Father and run to those who come back to the church.

We can pull them in and celebrate their return, feeding them with the Word and Sacraments.

We can love them unconditionally-- not taking account of their situation.

We can be glad they returned, and find them a place at the best table, with the best food and wine.

Or like the "prodigal" brother, we can be bitter and envy the gifts they are given, fuming about how they are taking "our share". We could look down at them for not doing things "the right way".

Sexual sin is no different than any other sin -- it's just more difficult to hide.

How does your church welcome single parent households into their fold? Do they gossip about then when they're not there? Do they cluck their tongues when speaking about their living situation?

What about the young mother who may be choose to give up an education to give birth to her child? How do we help guarantee that she will have the opportunity to continue on a successful path in life? (And though we're primarily talking about young moms here- how do we help the older mom, who may have given up the idea of gaining a degree?) The burden of single-parenthood disproportionately falls on the female party in this type of situation. 

How does your church family support the young man who suddenly finds himself facing fatherhood... when he hasn't even figured out childhood? How does it help him rise to fulfill his vocation as a father? How do you help him understand the importance of parenting his child -- especially when the law often sees him as no more than a monthly check?

We can protest outside of a clinic all we want, but unless someone steps up to the plate and promises parents they will be supported, those abortion statistics will never significantly decrease.

(For those claiming we've already decreased numbers, I believe offerings such as Plan B have more to do with this than the current pro-life surge.)

Statistics show that Christian women have some of the highest abortion rates.

The primary reason a woman ends a pregnancy is because she "isn't ready". Not because she doesn't want the baby, but because she doesn't feel emotionally or financially secure enough to birth and raise a baby.

Those of us in the best position to help, are able to walk into church every Sunday without putting our indiscretions on display.  It doesn't mean our indiscretions are any less sinful, it just means we can hide them more easily.

If we put aside our judgement of other people's situations we may find our churches filled with babies who would otherwise be aborted.

You can be a life-saver and a world-changer. All it takes is a quiet tongue and an open heart.

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