A few weeks ago as the Sabbath approached, my phone pinged loudly, signaling I had a new e-mail. Glancing at the screen, I saw the words “Festival department job assignment.” I hurried to open the e-mail and read the details of where God had placed me to serve this year. I have to admit, when I read the first line I had mixed emotions: Singles activity assistant.
This isn’t a new job assignment for me. This will be my fifth time to help in this department at the Feast of Tabernacles. At first, I was excited. I love being able to help in this area because it’s an activity I’ve always enjoyed. I get to spend an hour before services and a half hour after meeting the singles at the Feast site. This is actually where I met a few of my very good friends for the first time.
But quickly, I remembered all of the hesitation and resistance I face in this department. While there are a few people who run up to the table with exuberance—who can’t wait to buy their ticket no matter what it takes—there are always those who hesitate. They aren’t quite sure about the whole idea. Then there are those who completely avoid it. They don’t want anything to do with the singles activity, and there’s no discussing it—it’s not for them.
In the June 29 singles online Bible study, we learned that there are thousands of singles in the Philadelphia Church of God. So why do we struggle every year to sell enough tickets to pay for the activity? Every year I end up trying to convince people they should attend.
What Richard Rice wrote in the August 1980 edition of the Good News still holds true: “The Feast of Tabernacles is often spoken of in terms of the family rejoicing together and portraying God’s Kingdom of peace and happiness. While the members of God’s Church are all part of a great spiritual Family, many do not have physical families.
“There are thousands of single people in the Church of God in this modern era. This group is made up of young unmarried adults, widows or widowers, divorced individuals and older unmarrieds. They are an important part of the Church.
“The Feast is intended as a time of rejoicing, learning and happiness for them as single people, too!”
Among the tips Mr. Rice gave in this article for singles were these two: “Date widely and emphasize fellowship. Visit new people of many age groups. Involving yourself in family activities at the Feast will broaden your outlook on life. Always maintain proper conduct during a date. …
“Be responsive to organized singles’ activities. Whether it’s a dance, party or special dinner, join the group and have fun. Don’t be a drag and hold out!”
I would like to address some of the fears that have been expressed to me over the years, in hopes of encouraging the fearful to overcome their fears and attend this year’s singles activity.
I can’t afford it.The most common concern I hear is that it’s either too expensive or they simply don’t have the funds to attend. Each year we have singles and even married people who donate extra funds to pay for tickets so we provide free tickets as gifts. If you cannot afford a ticket to the singles event, we as activity assistants will find a way to get you there. Don’t be afraid to ask: You are giving another person the opportunity to serve!
For those who can afford it but think it’s too expensive, look at it as an investment. Aside from the delicious food, drinks and entertainment of the evening’s activity, the time spent with God’s people in fellowship builds bonds within God’s spiritual Family that will last for eternity.
I’m too shy/I’m too old/I have no one to go with.Everyone at the singles event is in the same boat. We all attend this activity to meet new people and strengthen friendships we have already built. This event is not about speed dating or sizing up the dating scene. If we all see the singles event as an evening dedicated to time spent in fellowship with like minds, it won’t matter if we’re shy or older than some of the others who attend. If you’re scared to go alone, just remember there’s always someone else just as scared as you. This is one giant group date, and we will all enjoy it together!
I’m a single parent, and I don’t have a babysitter.At the Feast, we are literally surrounded by family who can help you! If you don’t have physical family, find a teenager or family in your area who might be able to help. With advanced notice, I’m sure you will be able to find someone to help out for a couple hours. Married couples, maybe you can offer to watch the kids of a single parent you know so they can attend the activity.
The singles activity is just a meat market. I don’t want to be uncomfortable. The ministry has been working hard lately to ensure that the singles don’t slip through the cracks. Every singles activity has a minister and his wife present, and usually a few married couples that attend as chaperones. If everyone is striving to achieve the high standard of dating set by Mr. Armstrong and carried on by Mr. Flurry as outlined in Mr. Hilliker’s online Bible study, this will not be an issue. If at any time you feel uncomfortable, the ministry is never far away.
I have attended 12 Feast of Tabernacles singles activities and five Edmond singles’ winter weekends. I’ll be completely honest: Once or twice I’ve come across inappropriate behavior or comments at these events, but all I had to do was smile while excusing myself from the company of the person. We all make mistakes and we are all learning. If I had let those one or two experiences end my attendance at singles’ activities I would have missed out on the hundreds of great experiences and friendships that came afterward.
The singles event is a hidden gem nestled in the Feast that some people pass by without a second glance. It is one of our only opportunities to get to know our fellow singles in person. I’m hoping this year more people will be in that special group hurrying to the table to get their tickets.
This year, when you walk past that table and see the people selling tickets for the singles activity, I challenge you to throw aside all your fears, any negative stories you may have heard, and any contempt you feel forward this activity, and take the leap. The activity will only be as successful as we make it. This is our activity, created just for us. The festival department has put a great deal of time and effort into planning this activity for us. Let’s show them that we not only appreciate it but that we are excited about it.
As Mr. Rice said in his article, “These principles will help you learn to fear God and rejoice as a single person in God’s Church, and give you spiritual rewards that will last for eternity.”