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Churches urged to increase work of connecting with the lonely

A coalition of faith-based charities called ‘Christians Together Against Loneliness’ has been consulted in plans for a national campaign starting on 17 June, which aims to raise awareness of issues relating to loneliness and social isolation.

The campaign begins during Loneliness Awareness Week (17-21 June) and aims to reduce the stigma of talking about loneliness, and will encourage more openness and discussion about the issue.

The year-long campaign called ‘Let’s Talk Loneliness’ will be launched simultaneously by the government, and will encourage individuals, charities, businesses and public sector organisations to engage with it during the year. The campaign is being launched in response to increasing evidence of the serious nature of loneliness, such as:

• More than nine million people of all ages say they ‘always’ or ‘often’ feel lonely
• With over 50% of those aged 75 living alone, older people are at greater risk of isolation
• 3.9m older people consider television as their main form of company

Why should churches and individual Christians get involved?

During recent years, social isolation and loneliness have become increasing concerns nationally, and the UK is often quoted as the ‘loneliness capital of Europe’. Jeremy Sharpe, Chair of Christians Together Against Loneliness explains “The Bible teaches us that we are all to care for those on the margins of society and, by definition, many people struggling with loneliness are often unseen. This provides a challenge in identifying those most at risk, but also provides an opportunity for us all to be alert and aware of those for whom this could be a part of their day to day lives.

“It is also often the case, particularly in rural areas, that church buildings are the only places to meet within the community. This should therefore provide a greater impetus to explore ways to reach and engage with people within our local neighbourhoods.”

How can churches and individual Christians get involved?

There are many ways that churches and individual Christians can engage with this campaign. The dedicated website, www.letstalkloneliness.co.uk will provide ideas and resources as well as details of organisations already providing support and services across the UK. There will be several suggestions providing ways in which individuals can make a difference in their local area.

Churches and Christian organisations can get involved by linking any existing groups, clubs or activities into the national campaign on a local level by advertising on social media and elsewhere. There are also various excellent existing models of community projects which address loneliness, available to churches and Christian organisations.

These include Care Home Friends, Linking Lives UK, Parish Nursing UK, Places of Welcome (CUF) and Anna Chaplaincy for Older People through BRF’s The Gift of Years.

Jeremy highlights, “It has been encouraging to see the level of interest in the issue of loneliness and social isolation increasing over recent years. In many ways, the Church has been at the forefront of building strong community relations for many centuries, and we have been pleased to be able to engage with and support this national campaign as it has developed. We would encourage all churches and Christians to consider at least one way in which they can engage in this key issue of our time.”

More at www.letstalkloneliness.co.uk

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