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CHURCH GROUPS OFFER SUPPORT, SOCIALIZATION FOR SINGLES

Loneliness. Fear. Emptiness.

These are a few of the more dramatic reasons that make unmarried people want to flock together sometimes.But many singles just want to have a good time and find some intellectual stimulation.

And possibly find a mate along the way.

Only during the past 10 years have religious organizations - traditionally geared toward families - realized that single people have singular needs.

Not all churches in the Salt Lake area have special programs for singles. But several sponsor active groups that provide support, recreation and socialization for their numbers.

"There is a need for these types of groups because there are many single people who don't feel comfortable socializing with married adults with families," says Kathy Gullberg, coordinator of ministries for the First Presbyterian Church.

Gullberg says one woman in her organization recently lost her parents. "The (singles) group was a great support to her."

The Rev. Jack Serr of the Salt Lake Christian Center says he is concerned about the growing number of single people - many of them divorced - in the United States.

"There are 66.3 million single people over the age of 18," Serr says. "I'm concerned about what's happening to our values. . . . But single people are not weird. They have specific needs, and we want to be on the cutting edge to do all we can to address those needs."

Occasionally the singles groups pave the way for a marriage.

"We're getting ready for a wedding for a couple that met in one of our groups," said Pastor Andy Hornbaker of the Holladay Baptist Church.

Here's a summary of programs for singles offered by some area ministries:

- The LDS Church has an array of programs and offerings for single adults on the ward, stake and regional levels, says church spokesman Joseph Walker. Many stakes have singles wards, geared to the needs of those ages 20-30. Singles organizations offer dances, sports and regular meetings. Special conferences include activities ranging from lectures and discussions about singlehood to games and social mixers, he says.

Several hotlines listed in the phone book and classified ads provide updates on activities specifically for LDS singles. The Utah Central Area Single Adults Activities Phone is an example; the number is 964-3000.

- The Salt Lake Christian Center, 4300 S. 700 East, has two single groups, one for ages 18 to 24 and one for 25 and older. The latter group, comprised of about 30 members and growing, is called FOCAS, or the "Fellowship of Christian Adult Singles."

They meet weekly for discussions. This summer's theme is "Singleness: An Opportunity for Growth" and will cover topics such as relationships, personal improvement, sexuality and crisis. Child care is provided.

In addition, the group has regular outings and activities. For more information, call 268-2178.

- The Holladay Baptist Church, 2780 E. 3900 South, has three singles groups: The "College and Career," for those just out of high school; a group for singles 25 to 30 years old; and one for people over 30, says Hornbaker. The groups meet every Sunday for Bible study and on weeknights for discussions and activities.

Call 277-9412 for more information.

- The Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, 8575 S. 700 East, Sandy, provides monthly socials for single adults and single adults with children. Monthly discussions, roundtables and speakers explore "issues a family-oriented ministry doesn't often talk about," said coordinator Bruce Brewer.

- Singles and young marrieds have been meeting together for Bible study and socials sponsored by the First Presbyterian Church. But because of increasing numbers, the singles may soon spin off and form their own group, says Gullberg.

In addition to religious study, the group meets once a month for activities such as picnics, dancing, progressive dinners or bowling. The most popular event has been "Junk Food and Game Night," Gullberg says.

For more information about the First Presbyterian singles program, call 363-3889.