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Churches accused of pressuring single women as Hollywood actress Emma Watson declares herself 'self-partnered'
The founder of Christian dating site Christian Connection has told Premier churches need to be more mindful about the way they exclude single people and inadvertently put pressure on them to be in a relationship.
Jackie Elton has been speaking out after Hollywood actress Emma Watson described herself as "self-partnered" rather than single.
The Harry Potter star told British Vogue about the pressure of turning 30 next year.
She admitted feeling "stressed and anxious" in the past year - about things like not being married or having a baby.
Elton believer Watson's story isn't an isolated one and church leaders need to be more understanding.
"When people walk into a church, there are so many messages that are talking being a 'family church'," she said.
"There's so much about families, children, and there are so many events and festivals related around family issues. And we know from a major survey that we did a few years ago just how many single people feel that the church doesn't know what to do with them. Most people who are single have had some kind of really painful and difficult experience at church.
"Sadly, so far, the Church is not really thinking about it and that's particularly sad when the reality is that 40 per cent of adults in society are single. So the church is really focused on the much smaller number of people who are married, particularly married with children."
Elton said she interpreted Watson's "self-partnered" as a desire to describe herself as self-sufficient.
"It's a positive fact that you can be fine being on your own that one can resist all the messaging that says you must be with somebody, you must be married," she said.
"There's so much pressure on every young woman not to be single. But at the same time you think 'Well, come on is that a real thing?' It's a bit of a question mark, can we partner ourselves?"
Elton encouraged churches to have services that are oriented in a way that a single person feels comfortable.
"If the church leader stands up and talks about the family and the kids, over time, that's going to alienate a single person, it's not necessary to do that."
She said it was vital to have events that everyone can be a part of, not just married couples or families. She also added that prayer groups for singles can encourage them in their faith.
"There are all sorts of very subtle and simple ways where single people feel that just as much part of the church."
The Single Friendly Church Campaign, which Elton also leads, is taking the message of churches including singles to leaders and churches all over the UK.
Listen to the interview Elton here:
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