The North England Conference (NEC) Single and Special Banquet held on Sunday 1 March was special indeed. The red carpet was laid out at the Village Hotel Coventry, for our singles guests to walk in style, in their formal attire into a well-presented banqueting suite. Over seventy guests arrived looking smart and well groomed, to enjoy the occasion. The banquet was hosted by Beulah Plunkett NEC Women's Ministries Director, and Pastor Paul Liburd, Family Ministries Director. This was the first Singles Banquet organised by the Women's Ministries team and a lot of work was put into making it special.
From the start of the event guests were blessed with wonderful live music from Mark Bunney and his wife LaDonna Bunney serenading them with beautiful singing and amazing saxophone sounds to start the occasion with a special note. This was followed by a get to know you icebreaker led by Beulah Plunkett and a TED talk from Pastor Paul Liburd.
After a beautiful meal there was time to mingle and talk to different people and make new friends. This was then followed by a mini concert with more live music and singing from: Georgina Morrison, Mark Larman, Mark Bunney and LaDonna Bunney. There was even a special rendition of the poem 'Love Letta' by Beulah Plunkett, this brought laughter and great surprise for some as the poem was delivered in Jamaican Creole, making it even more fun.
The concert was heart-warming, the room was filled with music, laughter and the atmosphere was exciting as individuals made the most of the occasion by enjoying the experience. Many said how much they enjoyed the banquet, and how they were made to feel special.
There have been three Singles Sundays to date with this being the fourth. The singles have said repeatedly at these events that they really appreciate the NEC for thinking about them and making them feel more like they belong.
'Singles Sundays' was started by Beulah Plunkett when the women made repeated requests for something for the singles. They wanted a mixed event where single male and female Adventists could meet and build friendships. Beulah Plunkett discussed this with the NEC President Pastor Richard Jackson, who was in favour of the idea and a small budget was set up.
The singles that made the requests were in the 40+ age group, so the first 'Singles Sunday Brunch' was organised for those over 40 years of age in November 2018. There was a good turnout, but there was a need for more men. Beulah spoke with the Men's Ministries Sponsor Clive Palmer and Family Ministries Director Pastor Paul Liburd; both were happy to come on board and support these events.
We held the second event in April 2019 in Wolverhampton, and the turnout doubled with a few more men in attendance. The third event was held in September 2019 in Leicester. For each event we had TED talks from Michael Danzie, Pastor Paul Liburd, Clive Palmer and Beulah Plunkett, discussions, time to mingle, lunch, and Q&A time is also included. The events created WhatsApp groups, additional meet ups and much more interaction among singles across the NEC churches.
The purpose of the Singles Sundays and Banquet is to give Adventist singles from different churches the opportunity to meet and build friendships which is the foundation of good long-term relationships. We also explore the challenges that the single life brings and share solutions and suggestions. The singles want this to continue and grow into a real area of ministry. We are mindful of the younger singles and because their needs are in some ways similar but in some ways different, we are looking at starting a 'Singles Meetup' for this group.
Singleness is a part of all of our lives at some point in time. We need to keep in mind how we can best meet the needs of the singles in our churches and plan how to continue to support them so that they will feel loved and included in the life of the church.