Okay, so there are a lot of wisecracks that leap to mind when thinking about going to church to meet that special someone. And there are probably plenty of people out there recovering from an overly strict religious upbringing who cannot imagine darkening the doors of any religious institution. But for the majority of Americans who claim to attend church regularly, the local house of worship may provide a safe haven in the often scary singles' scene. At least that's what Inlander readers thought, by a fairly wide margin.
People who are part of a church community say it's easier to find other people there who share a similar philosophy of life. And while many churches have traditionally focused on families and geared their social activities toward couples with children, more are now recognizing the diversity within their congregations.
At Spokane's Unitarian Universalist Church, a group of singles known as the Singular Unitarians have such a busy social calendar that they send out a monthly newsletter to a mailing list of more than 50 people. Unlike some other singles' groups, the Singular Unitarians emphasize group activities over the pressure of dating, although some couples have emerged from the group.
"We have about seven activities a month, with events like plays, concerts and potlucks," says Ellen Krehbiel, who coordinates the newsletter. "It's just a fun group of people who like to do things together, not a matchmaking group." A recent widow, Krehbiel says she has met more people by joining the membership committee for the church. "That's an excellent way to meet people, because you meet all the new people who are looking to get to know others in the community."
Of course, it's no wiser to dive headlong into a new church relationship than any other. Just because you meet someone at church, that's no guarantee of his or her good intentions, cautions one local pastor. Single adults, especially the newly widowed or divorced, often feel uncertain or insecure and can be vulnerable. She suggests taking time to get to know the other person to make sure he or she is not just drifting through the community. Overall, though, relationships that begin at church have a basis in something deeper than a simple attraction, and that can lead to a fuller and more meaningful relationship, whether for friendship or romance.
As Eric Young of St. Ann's Catholic Church says, "At a bar, you may find quantity, but at church you'll find quality." His fianc & eacute;e, who is a member of the same parish, is sure to agree.
Second place: Havana's/The Internet (tie)
Third place: Thirsty's/Grocery Store (tie)
(Sorry, no information is currently available for other years in this same award category.)