Songs of Praise to feature speed dating

(Photo: Suada Isaki)

It's been accused of being a bit like a "soggy quiche", but Songs of Praise is set to challenge preconceptions by hosting an unusual feature – speed dating.

This Sunday's episode will include interviews with the founder of Christian Connection, Jackie Elton, as well as a married couple who met on the dating website. The programme will also show one of the site's speed dating events, filmed in a converted factory in East London.

"The feature provides a welcome spotlight on single Christians seeking long-term relationships in a Christian context – in that sense it is long overdue,' Elton said.

"We are delighted Songs of Praise chose to make this programme with us and hope it shows the Christian life in another place and dimension."

Elton added that the programme will shed light on the issues facing single people in churches which often focus on married couples and families.

"Christian Connection has become a significant community where thousands of people are constantly meeting, both on and offline," she said.

The news follows statistics released today revealing that more than three quarters of church leaders would encourage singles in their congregation to go to a dating agency.

Friendsfirst, the UK's largest Christian 'offline' dating service, found that many believe it to be the best way for Christians to find a spouse.

According to the group's research, relationships with a non-Christian is the main reason for unmarried Christians leaving the church – totalling 45 per cent.

"The church cannot afford this drain to continue and church leaders, who have fought declining congregations and increasing marginalisation for many years, are now facing up to reality and encouraging singles to embrace expert help to find a partner," friendsfirst says.

Director Katharine Gray insists the problem could get even bigger in the future.

"If left unchecked [it] will lead to thousands of singles turning their back on the church," she said.

"The desire for a partner is core to the human condition and rather than trusting just to prayer and fate, the church must acknowledge that singles need support and encouragement to address what can be a sensitive issue."