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While the scene may have developed a great deal, in her opinion the Church does not do enough to recognise and support single people. Many of our members frequently say that they feel marginalised by their churches. Many church leaders are not even aware of the number of unattached people in their own churches, let alone what their needs and contributions might be.

Theology and advice about being single can be patronising and diverge widely. Precise statistics on the number of single people in the UK, or in the Church, are hard to come by. The Census shows that just over half the adult population aged 16 and over in a first or subsequent marriage, but there is no breakdown for the remaining 49 per cent this includes those who have been widowed and divorced. They may not be married, but are they single?

Church of England attendance figures do not specify marital status.


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But anecdotal evidence suggests that there are more single women than men in church. Those running internet sites for Christian singles confirm this. When internet agencies started, generally more men than women used them, as men tended at first to be more regular computer users. Currently, about 39 per cent of Christian Connection members are male. Despite the lack of official statistics of single men in church, evidence suggests very low numbers.

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A survey published in the UK Christian Handbook shows that only five per cent of men in the UK regularly attended church. Exceptions to the rule include large city churches like Holy Trinity, Brompton, in London. At that church, half the who attend are single and aged under 30; and there is a reasonably high ratio of men to women. Many new church members attend the Alpha course, where the average age is 27, said a spokesman, Mark Elsdon-Dew. Mr Elsdon-Dew said that the church was a place of worship, not a matchmaking agency.

For single Christians struggling to meet others, there are now other low-key ways of making contact. Jane, a Church of England priest in her early 40s, tried the Spring Harvest French Houseparty — which, although not specifically a matchmaking venture, is aimed at those travelling alone or without children.

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There are so far no specific UK internet dating sites for Christian lesbian and gay singles. And there are secular sites around anyway. But lesbian and gay Christians who are particularly interested in meeting others have opportunities to do so socially through groups such as the long-established Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, as well as in congregations that have become known as welcoming through more informal networks.

As for the future of internet dating for churchpeople, Ms Elton predicts more changes. When Christian Connection started, there was basically a library of profiles you could search through: Many predict that the whole of the internet dating industry will happen via mobile phones and handheld computers.

Previously, much of my energies had been taken up with keeping in contact with my three children, and getting over the shock of being on my own. While having a meal with friends, I put this to them and someone suggested joining a Christian dating agency. It had been fun, but there had been no chemistry with anyone; so I decided to give it a break.

I rang the agency and explained — joking — that, ideally, I would like to meet a blonde who lived near me.

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A month later, I received a call from them saying that they had a new lady on the books who lived near me and was, in fact, blonde. I signed up with them again, and in fact got three new names. But, once we spoke on the phone, we soon clicked, and talked for over half an hour. We met at a pub, and talked a lot over a good meal, sharing our pasts, and briefly touching on hopes for the future. Fourteen months after first meeting, we seriously discussed our future, and four months later we were married.

I knew what it felt like, because I was one. The author of Bridget Jones , Helen Fielding, had launched her newspaper column later a book, then a film in The Independent ten years earlier. Thankfully, the picture was never used. In the end, I met one man who was interested in Christianity. He was also funny, creative and poetic. We fell in love. There were times, though, when I cried myself to sleep, exhausted with the sense of being torn between two great loves. Because if we were honest — and eventually we had to be — all my talk about God irritated him. After the break-up, I signed up to a free Christian singles website just to see if single Christian men existed.

There was no stigma involved, as the people on the site were also looking for ways to connect with other Christians. Though I did feel, sometimes, as if I was almost advertising myself for sale. If I made the effort, I felt that I could be happier being single and trusting in God for the rest, whether I met the right man or not. Simon wrote to me after I had been on the site for more than year. I had made lots of mistakes writing to people, including hurried replies which I later cringed over, and sounding too much like a wino.

Bridget and I really did have many things in common.

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In the same way as meeting someone in a coffee shop or a bar, first impressions count on the web, too. I had already met one man via the site.

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Our subsequent emails revealed more and more about who he was. Writing to him was fun. When you get internet dating right, and someone knows how to communicate with words, writing your thoughts, your life, your experiences is an amazing way to get to know someone — something, I imagine, all those writers of love letters know well. I had agreed to meet the first man after months of emails.

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