Churches don’t always excel at reaching out to the unmarried members of their congregations.
It’s something that Samuel Hancock noticed when he suddenly found himself single in his 50s, widowed in 2006 by his wife of more than 30 years. Without Lorraine by his side, he began to notice how often pastors draw on marriage to contextualize their sermons, how disappointing it was to be cut off from the couples ministry that he had so enjoyed before his wife’s death.
“I don’t think the pastors even realize it,” he said. “But I realized it, because I had been married for 30 years.”
Adjusting to single life proved to be a major transition for the Toledoan. So was re-entering the dating scene, beginning with online dating platforms that hadn’t even existed when he was last on the market. Mr. Hancock reflects on both in his recently released book, Lord Help Me … I Have a Date!, a self-published guide to dating that draws heavily on its author’s experiences navigating the singles’ scene as a widower and a person of faith.
“I had encountered a lot of single people who were having the same sort of experiences I had had,” Mr. Hancock said of his motivation to write the book. “One of the things that really struck me about being single was that I felt like singles were being ignored in the church.”
Indiana Avenue Missionary Baptist Church, where Mr. Hancock serves as a minister, is hosting a launch party for the book between noon and 3 p.m. Saturday. The church is at 640 Indiana Ave., and its pastor is the Rev. John Roberts.
By the time Mr. Hancock started writing in 2015, his perspective had changed to that of a remarried man. After years of relationship ups and downs, some of which he mines for anecdotes in his book, he invited a long-time acquaintance out to breakfast in 2011.
He and Kattie Bond Hancock married on Oct. 11, 2014.
His how-to dating guide in part describes his journey from breakfast to altar, in anecdotes and advice that reflect the centrality of his faith throughout his time on the dating scene. His suggestions for singles assume that these singles are likewise plugged into faith communities, as when he recommends consulting a pastor before inviting a fellow worshiper on a date.
But his story — as well as with the practical advice he’s synthesized from it — begins before he connected with Mrs. Bond Hancock. He talks about missing the easy companionship of his first wife, Lorraine, a point that largely motivated his decision to begin dating again, and about the way that his relationships with married friends felt different once he became a widower.
These experiences leave him an advocate for singles ministries in churches, he said in a recent interview. His own church has one. And, in writing Lord Help Me, he connected with a particularly active ministry at a Columbus-based church, where members described participating in a wide variety of activities and outings.
“Singles have needs, singles need to be recognized,” Mr. Hancock said. “Singles need to have activities. Singles need to be counseled. Singles just have needs that often go unaddressed.”
Lord Help Me also touches on dating within the church. Mr. Hancock likens it to dating within an office: The question isn’t whether co-workers or co-worshipers should date, he writes, but how any such relationship should unfold.
Discretion is advisable. Respect is key.
Not everyone is called to married life, as Mr. Hancock acknowledges in Lord Help Me. While Mr. Hancock, for his part, said he knew early on he wanted to remarry, he trusted in the will and guidance of God as he navigated relationships as a single.
That trust paid off in his case: He gives credit to God, too, for connecting him with his wife.
Lord Help Me … I Have a Date! is $11.95 at several online retailers: Barnes and Nobles, Amazon, Westbow Press and the authors’ webpage, thehancockgroup1.com.
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