Recently I was waiting in line at a store, and noticed that the two couples behind me apparently knew each other from church. I was tempted to turn around and ask “Are you by chance Mormons?” (Because they were all blond, and between the two couples had a strangely large number of children….) I’m glad I didn’t, though, because it soon became clear that they weren’t LDS, and not having asked, I could eavesdrop. They were discussing some social upheaval at their church, leading to certain people joining their congregation, and others leaving. Apparently there is, to some extent, a “marketplace” kind of atmosphere among protestant churches in our area. I initially had that reaction that we all know a little too well, that “well, we don’t do it that way in our church” smugness. Then I woke up a bit, and realized sometimes we do it exactly that way.
Let me introduce you all to a concept you “traditional Mormon” readers may not know about–the east coast singles ward scene. I happen to be an expert in it. I could get an honorary Ph.d. in singles wards, were it not something of a Mormon stigma that I’ve been in them for so long.
Increasingly, singles from all over the country are hearing about the merits of an east coast stint, and heading here in droves. The funny thing about this exodus (or is it inodus?) is that despite traditional Mormon you-don’t-choose-your-ward tradition, singles are selecting the communities that fit them, and moving there specifically to be near like minded people. Pretty interesting ramifications for ward chemistry…and it leads to some pretty interesting communities. With the obvious question being, what kind of an effect does it have on our spiritual growth when we choose our own communities? Is our service and commitment lessened because we are deprived of the unchosen diverse (at least in some respects) ward?
But enough of the serious talk. People clearly want facts, or at least unsubstantiated opinions. Here’s how I look at it. There is a triumverate of singles ward meccas on the east coast: Boston, New York, and Washington D.C.
Boston is quirky, intellectual, and sometimes “dangerous.” If you have crazy ideas go to Boston. (Or at least, go to Boston about 5-10 years ago…apparently those Yankees up there are mainstreaming a bit….) Boston is an adventure. If some of the T&S regulars (and Aaron) write about a crazy ward, you can go to Vegas and lay bets that it was in Boston. (It’s entirely possible that those single ward goers *would* actually gamble, and do it while drinking the coca-cola). The singles wards are full of Harvard and MIT students–in fact the building which houses 4 singles ward is about a block away from the Harvard campus. How crazy are they? Apparently a few years ago, so the rumor goes, the LDSSA made a serious attempt to secede from CES. (Something I had nothing to do with Mom…I swear.) Here’s the other thing about Boston–now that I’ve slandered (or is it libeled) with a broad brush–rock solid testimonies, incredibly thoughtful and thinking people, and wonderful communal energy.
New York. If only I knew you better. Here’s the rumor, backed up by some very enjoyable visits. Smart, bright, artsy, and hip. Want musicians? Got ‘em. Want rich successful business people? Got ‘em. (Or at least NY rich…) Want fabulous lessons full of thought provoking ideas? Head to the Big Apple. Want a little quirk with your cereal and milk? Yup. Go to New York. Besides, who can beat attending church across the street from the Opera. (And soon, attending church in the temple building.) Plus, they get added props for putting the age limit for the “older singles ward” at 27+. That’s optimism my friends….
Washington D.C. So many singles here. I’ve lost count of the wards, and rumors of impending splits have reached my ears. You want a rather large field, white and ready to harvest? Come to D.C. and thrust in your sickle. (But choose carefully where you go. I was once told that a certain ward was “into appearances” and I might fit in better somewhere else. Yes, indeed!) There are the power wards, full of government workers and law students, there are the wards with college kids, there are the wards with lots of local singles, there is an oscillating nanny population, and there are just bunches of people who are here because they heard it was fun to be single in D.C. In a celebration of our pluralistic democracy, D.C. has it all. And in celebration of our Mormon heritage, I can say that I’m blessed to be surrounded by such amazing and inspiring people.
So, despite my initial smugness regarding our Mormon tradition of set ward boundaries, I recognize that as singles–sometimes we just choose our own adventures–and what an adventure it is…