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February 6, 2013

Local church groups offer social alternatives for newly single adults

By Brad D. Bates
C & G Staff Writer

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Ginny Moore, of Clinton Township, dances the night away at Bethany’s Snowflake Dance.

Special occasions can be particularly hard on people who feel they have no one to celebrate with, and rarely is that feeling stronger than on Valentine’s Day.

While folks may feel down if they don’t have a specific beau or belle to call their valentine Feb. 14 because of a recent divorce or separation, metro Detroit groups are working to turn those frowns upside down.

“On Thanksgiving, we had a person open their home up for anyone that didn’t have anywhere to go; Christmas, we did the same with dinner and a movie; and Valentine’s Day, we’ll have a dinner at night and flowers and different things going on,” said Barb Krause, who leads Second Half ministries at Kensington Church in Troy with her husband, Dan Krause.

“(The Second Half Singles) do have activities planned on those days because it is so hard, after a divorce.”

Second Half Singles is one of several adult singles groups at Kensington. It is open to singles ages 45 and older to provide members with a place to find community, friendship and family when they need it.

“Being lonely, they want some form of community, not to date necessarily, but just be part of a community,” Barb Krause said. “Just get over and heal from their divorce, which is dramatic.”

And groups like those at Kensington or those through Bethany, a Catholic group that offers social networks and counseling to the divorced, offer environments to do just that.

“When you’re first single, you go through all those emotions of a death of a relationship, and the last place you need to be is in a bar or a meat market place,” said Debbie Cona, the facilitator of the divorce recovery program with Bethany, of the value of meeting new people in an environment like Bethany.

“This is a safe place to go through all those emotions. Go through it all, get the anger out and forgive. It can take a while, and this is a safe place that you’re surrounded by friends, and worrying about what you look like and all that comes later.”

According to its website, www.bethanyofsoutheasternmichigan.org, Bethany “provides spiritual, social and educational assistance to divorced and separated Christians through peer-to-peer ministry.” The Catholic nonprofit organization is part of the ministry of the Family Life Office of the Archdiocese of Detroit and is open to people of any Christian faith.

Cona said that, when dealing with the grief and emotions surrounding the end of a significant relationship, such as a marriage, it is important to have support.

But along with that support, Bethany offers events such as dances and activities, like regular Friday night co-ed volleyball or a group outing to an Oakland University men’s basketball game Feb. 9.

“I think our group is a little older, in their 40s or 50s, and these people have been married, so the conventional nightclubs don’t work for those age groups, and this allows folks to go through this with people with similar experiences,” Bethany Rochester Board President Mark Kulikowski said.

And sharing those experiences with like-minded individuals can jump-start the emotional healing process.

“You’re partner in life kicked you to the curb, or you kicked your partner to the curb, and you don’t usually have a plan for that,” Cona said of the mental toll a divorce takes on an individual.

“You have to rebuild your whole life, and there’s so much going on (that) the last place you want to be is in a bar, in the beginning. It’s easier to meet people when you’re at a game night playing euchre.”

Barb Krause said she believes the relationship between her church and the groups helps foster an environment that is social without the pressure of other dating-centered meeting places.

“The philosophy is that, if it’s all secular, it’s like a meat market, and a lot (of members) don’t want that right now,” Barb Krause said. “They just want friendship and to get over their hurt — just a friendly safe place they can come to get a sense of community and family.

“We’re very much a faith-centered church, but we reach people where they are, rather than have people come in to us,” Barb Krause added. “It’s an outward focus to bring people in.

“We don’t preach to them, but we do get into values and encourage church attendance.”

Cona said one challenge faced by faith-based groups like Bethany is that people may shy away under the false assumption that the experience is going to overly religious.

“We don’t focus our chapter entirely on reading the Bible,” Cona said. “We go to Tigers games or go golfing. What might keep some people away is if they feel (a group is) a deeply practicing practice.”

And missing out on the support and camaraderie of a group like Bethany can set people back in their process of regaining their individual identity, as well as the confidence to move ahead with a social life.

“Having that support group and knowing that you’re not alone and not being lonely, to know that you deserve to be happy again,” Cona said of the main benefits of the camaraderie in the groups and activities at Bethany.

“It’s a process to learn (confidence) when you’re newly divorced. You feel like one half of a unit because you have to learn how to be single and start to get back out and live with confidence and have a safe place to get there.”

Which is why, even if it’s not at Bethany, Cona urges all newly single individuals to seek out some form of social support and actively reclaim their lives.

“I would encourage them to find a support group,” Cona said. “And a support group doesn’t mean you have to sit in a circle and sing ‘Kumbaya.’ There’s a lot out there, and they’re not all based on a church group. Find one you feel comfortable with, just to get started.

“Do something, rather than just stay home,” Cona added. “Happiness will not come fly through your window. You have to go looking for it. And happiness is out there for every single person.”

And there is no better time of year to take the first step toward happiness then Valentine’s Day.

“It makes me sad to know there are people home alone on Valentine’s Day,” Cona said. “They have to know there is hope right out there.”

For more information on Bethany and its programs visit www.bethanyofsoutheasternmichi gan.org or call (248) 988-0454.

Second Half Singles’ Valentines program is a Feb. 14 dinner at 6:30 p.m. at Eastside Mario’s in Troy with chocolates and flowers. Interested parties are asked to RSVP by Feb. 8 at secondhalf.singles@kensing tonchurch.org or by leaving a message at (248)-786-0600, ext. 831. For more information visit kensing tonchurch.org/smallgroups/specialty.php.