Loneliness is an increasingly common experience in Britain. Almost one in five of us say that we feel lonely often or always, one in ten say they have no close friends and, in 2014, 64% of Anglican church leaders said that loneliness and isolation was a significant problem in their area – up from 58% in 2011. As our society changes and people live longer, move further afield to work and are more likely to live on their own, increasing numbers of us are living with the kind of chronic, crippling loneliness that affects our sense of self, as well as our physical and mental health.
As a result of their local presence and their existing community life, churches are able to welcome people of all ages and stages of life into the new friendships and activity groups that help to reduce loneliness. They can also offer people opportunities to give, as well as to receive. By allowing people to take ownership of those groups, to volunteer and to give of themselves to others, churches can help to build people’s wellbeing, self-esteem and sense of purpose. In our increasingly fragmented society it is crucial that churches continue to respond to the issue of loneliness, offering hope and friendship to those most isolated in our communities.
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