Summertime is when weddings abound. No one longs for them more than the abundance of single women in our nation's churches. The dearth of marriage opportunities for most of these women calls forth certain coping strategies, one of which I'll call the "Anna syndrome" after the prophetess in Luke 2:36-38 who hung around the Jerusalem temple and happened to catch the baby Jesus on a good day.

Anna had been married at one point and as a widow was presumably living off her husband's estate. But he'd been dead many years and she had no children to provide for her, so perhaps she was quite poor. But instead of resorting to prostitution, which was the sole choice for women back then, she lingered about the temple and prayed.

I bring this Bible passage up because of memories that arose while helping a single female friend move. I got the job of organizing the piles of notes she had lying around. It struck me that so many were related to various church events geared to keeping members busy: retreats, visiting speakers, conferences, and Bible studies. This woman was in her 60s, poor and headed toward an old age on Social Security. She hung around church because it's the only family she has in the area.

What good had all these church events done her, I wondered, in terms of helping her find a Christian man and build a family of her own? Isn't that what the Bible encourages us all to do in 1 Cor. 7 in terms of dealing with sexual desires? Doesn't Psalm 68 say God sets the lonely in families? I'm talking nuclear families, not this great herd of singles so prevalent in churches today. This woman's pastor barely noticed her because women like her were plentiful in his congregation. She had chances to get out and get more of a life, but she ...

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