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Single in the pews

BOOKS | Learning from unmarried believers in the church

Single in the pews
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ANNA BROADWAY, an unmarried American Christian woman in her 40s, wanted to know how singleness can be a gift to believers. To find out, she quit her job to interview 345 Christians across dozens of countries in all the continents except Antarctica.

Solo Planet (NavPress 2024) is the culmination of her findings. It contains the experiences of Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Orthodox men and women ranging in age from 20s to 80s. The singles interviewed include those who are widowed, divorced, and disabled, as well as lesbian, gay, and trans people.

According to Broadway, churches tend to marginalize singles. That is despite Christian women outnumbering Christian men by millions worldwide, which would mean many Christian women will remain single from the lack of Christian men to marry.

Readers who are single may feel less alone as they read about the experiences of others like them in Solo Planet. For example, one Italian man’s long unanswered prayer for marriage plunged him into a spiritual crisis, until a priest reminded him of God’s love. An Indian woman’s family was unable to afford her dowry, leading her would-be husband to walk away. A few interviewees take in foster children.

Throughout the book, Broadway weaves in Bible passages and her own theological reflections. Some of Solo Planet’s more vivid moments come from Broadway’s recounting of the trips she took to interview sources. She once entered Russia with a World Cup ticket instead of a visa. In Brazil, she was able to pray with an apartment manager after getting mugged at knifepoint.

Broadway’s interviewees self-identify as Christians, and some do not adhere to the Biblical teaching that marriage is between a man and a woman, or that sex should be confined within marriage. I also question some of Broadway’s claims, including the parallel she draws between Communion and sex, and find her prose unclear at times.

Still, Broadway helpfully reminds readers that God invites all in His family, singles and married couples alike, to participate in His work.


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