Singles find fellowship through Episcopal group
Ask a single person of a certain age how to find other singles, and the typical respondent is likely to swear by online dating.
Certainly, dating websites are popular with the over-40 set, and almost everyone these days knows someone who has met a mate while cyberflirting.
But computer dating is not for everyone, and members of a new Richmond-area singles group say they much prefer the old-fashioned method of meeting face-to-face.
One year ago, they founded the group Episcopal Singles, which originally targeted members of local Episcopal churches but now welcomes members of all faiths and backgrounds.
On Feb. 11, Episcopal Singles will hold its second annual meet-and-greet event, and members are looking forward to adding a diverse group of newcomers to the fold. The first meet-and-greet in February 2011 drew three dozen people, who were surveyed about their interests and added to an email list. Since then, the group has gathered at a variety of local restaurants and such venues as Celtic Evensong at St. Stephen's, the Memorial Day Patrick Henry re-enactment at St. John's, a Taize service at Richmond Hill, and a private party at the St. Patrick's Irish Festival.
Sandston resident Karla Hunt, a widow since the mid-1990s, is among the founding members who has been gratified by the enthusiastic response.
"I feel like we kind of hit a chord," said Hunt, noting that quarterly events have drawn a diverse group of participants ranging in age from late thirties to retired senior citizens. All members are encouraged to email the group and suggest additional activities.
Clergy are encouraged to attend as well, and at least one pastor has taken part.
Recalling the first years after her husband died -- leaving her with daughters ages 5 and 10 -- she said she was initially in shock, then overwhelmed with going back to school and getting a job to support the family.
Once she was established in her geology career, Hunt found a social life in contra dancing for awhile, and began dabbling in a few dating websites.
"But it's really hard to get to know someone electronically," said Hunt, noting that one-on-one communication doesn't provide enough social context. "I want to meet in a group and see how [a dating interest] interacts with others.
"And once you meet, it's not easy to get out of [an unwanted relationship]."
As her daughters got older and Hunt began contemplating an empty nest, she realized she needed to renew her efforts to establish social connections and seek intellectual stimulation.
Since her church life and religion are so important to her, she reasoned, it made sense to find others with similar mindsets. In time, she came to the conclusion that "if I'm going to meet someone single and Episcopal, I'm going to have to do it myself."
A long-time member of St. John's Episcopal Church in Richmond, Hunt distributed a notice through various church bulletins, and collected a core group of other interested singles who helped plan a schedule of events.
"We don't have dues or a lot of rules. It's just a group of people who like to get together," said Hunt.
Ice breakers, sippers, and dippers
Fellow St. John's member Eunice Loewy had rotator cuff surgery last year and missed the meet-and-greet, but has attended about half the events so far. Loewy said she was pleased with the options provided, and the fact that they were religion-based. "That is what is needed in this world.
"There is a commonality among the Episcopal singles," added Loewy, "which we can all appreciate, and that is fellowship. We are a very friendly and welcoming bunch; and speaking for myself, [we're] not looking for a 'meat' market, which I find [with] online dating and the bar scene."
Betsy White attended last year's meet-and-greet with some friends from St. Stephen's Church because, she said, "It sounded like a fun thing to do." Since then, she has enjoyed deepening the friendships she made at the initial meeting.
"There is a diversity of life and work experiences in the group," said White. "There are never-married singles as well as widows and widowers and divorced singles, which makes for an all-inclusive supportive bunch of people."
White, who has socialized with such groups as her college alumni association and special interest clubs, says the Episcopal Singles group stands out for its informal atmosphere, relaxed expectations and casual conversation. "[The group] encourages people of like interests to socialize in some depth together," said White, "and to just plain have fun as they get to know each other better."
Hunt notes that upcoming get-togethers include a March Bluegrass Mass at St. Thomas' Episcopal, and the May 27 re-enactment of Patrick Henry's "Liberty or Death" speech at St. John's. For those who prefer less religiously-oriented gatherings, there will be occasional stand-alone restaurant meals as well.
Sharing in such varied experiences with the group, said White, has made her realize how fortunate Richmonders are to enjoy so many resources that enhance both spiritual and social life. Citing Richmond Hill, the Roslyn Diocesan Center, and an abundance of church parish houses among the resources, White also showered praise on Hunt for her "energy, enthusiasm, and foresight" in putting the group together.
"The fact that most of us have something in common, our church homes, provides ice breakers that one doesn't always get when ice clunks around in your glass while sitting up at a bar," said White. "Whether you are low church or high church or a sipper or a dipper at communion, this group beats the bar scene.
"Happy first anniversary to [Episcopal Singles]," White concluded, "and may there be many many more."
The Richmond West Breakfast Lions Club (based in western Henrico) recently donated 59 backpacks to the Westover Hills Elementary School on Jahnke Road.
Above, club members display some of the backpacks prior to their distribution. > Read more.
Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.
At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.
Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.
The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.
Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.
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“People have asked us to come to the West End for years,” said owner Kevin Healy. “When the opportunity arose, we knew had to jump on it.”
The new restaurant will be located in a 5,800-square-foot space under the Hyatt House Hotel at the town center and will include a large outdoor patio. > Read more.
Boka Kantina exceeds its strong food truck reputation
Already a fan of Boka fare from outdoor events with the Tako Truck, I was delighted to learn of the new restaurant, and eager to see if its reputation held up after putting down brick-and-mortar roots.
Would the food lose its zest if I wasn’t enjoying it in the great outdoors? Would it seem pedestrian served from an ordinary kitchen instead of a truck?
Would the tacos be less satisfying as an antidote to normal lunch hunger – instead of being ingested to stave off desperate hunger after a long afternoon of crowds, sun, and tedious lines? > Read more.
Original Gravity gets the green light to move forward with relocation, expansion into larger space
A Lakeside home-brewing shop has felt the gravitational pull toward the booming craft beer scene.
Original Gravity, a shop that sells beer and wine kits for homebrewers, has just been given the green light to start work on a microbrewery.
Owner Tony Ammendolia is expanding his 1,000-square-foot shop in Lakeside Town Center to 5,000-square-foot digs a few doors down to add a brewery and expand his supplies.
Ammendolia opened the home-brew supply store in November 2011 and since then he said business has taken off.
“I think I outgrew this place in the first year,” Ammendolia said. “We’ve seen steady growth and I’ve been looking for a place to expand to move the shop to get more square footage.” > Read more.
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