As I write this, the Jo Cox commission’s report on loneliness has just been released. It puts into sharp focus things that we already had a feeling about, that in our society today, loneliness and isolation are major issues affecting a huge number of people. It’s something that affects all ages, not just the elderly living alone. It has a very harmful effect on people’s health and wellbeing, in fact, the commission has found that loneliness is as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day!
For Christians this should come as no surprise as we know from the book of Genesis that when God made the world and the first man, Adam, he said ‘it is not good for man (‘or woman’ we would add these days!) to be alone’. So God made Eve so that man and woman could be together and no-one would be alone. We are made to be ‘relational beings’ – to relate to others like us, and to relate to God too. No wonder people find loneliness difficult – we just weren’t made to be on our own!
The natural life of our Church brings people together. Together to relate to God through worship, and together to relate to one another through all the different groups we offer. From bumps and babies through toddler, children’s and youth groups, through home groups, interest groups and fellowship groups, right up to bereavement group and lunches we hope to offer places where people can meet together, enjoy each other’s company, laugh and learn together and support each other.
Jo Cox said that she wanted to “turbo-charge” our country’s response to loneliness and the report calls on not just government and councils but also community and voluntary groups like ourselves to respond. Our hope is that the Gateway project will allow all that we already offer to combat loneliness to be more visible, welcoming and accessible to those who might not consider themselves members of our Church but who are members or our community. It will also allow us to expand our work to support more people and groups, and through the coffee lounge, provide an attractive space where people can meet up or just drop in for a chat.
As Trustees look at final plans and think about applying for approval from Church House and the Council Planning Dept, do pray for the Gateway proposal that it will come to fruition and will indeed have a positive impact in our community so that loneliness can be tackled and God’s kingdom may grow here.