Loneliness and the agents of the Kingdom…

There has been a lot in the news recently about loneliness.

One in 10 Britons often feel lonely, and those aged 18-34 are more likely to worry about being isolated than older adults, according to a Mental Health Foundation report.

Four in 10 have been depressed because of loneliness, and 48% believe people are becoming lonelier.

While 17% of over-55s worry about being alone, 36% of under-35s do.

The elderly, jobless and those who are disabled are most likely to be affected.

Persistent loneliness is bad for people’s mental and physical health and can be linked to stress, heavy drinking and poor diet, says the charity.

Peter Byrne, associate registrar of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said: “Our stereotype of the older person, home alone … is challenged by information [showing] the number of children calling a helpline who are lonely has increased by 60% in five years.”

The Guardian- here.

I find myself interested for several different reasons-

I work in a mental health setting, and the role of community and social support is being ever more recognised as both cause and potential recovery of mental ill health.

I am interested in the role of social networking (and other on line health and social care platforms) in supporting us- and have a strong feeling that our reliance on the web is contributing to the isolation of many people. The stats above for example suggest that loneliness is especially concerning in the ‘facebook generation’- who might have three hundred on line friends, but no-one to go to the pictures with at the weekend.

This is a recurrent theme on this blog- here for example.

It is also a key theme for our Greenbelt worship event this year.

Here is the question- if the statistics suggesting that loneliness, isolation and disconnectedness are increasingly defining characteristics of our society- then what should be the role of we, the agents of the Kingdom of the living (relational) God?

Who made us in a way to be at our best when we love and serve one another?

As we seek to serve those around us, how might we need to structure our activities to better shine light and sprinkle salt to bring out the good flavours of the societies we serve?

It used to be the strength of our institutions of faith- the way we brought together and unified our communities (sometimes for ill as well as good.) We birthed a thousand community groups- womens groups, mens groups, kids groups. And we served our communities at points of crisis and celebration in a way that marked and deepened our understandings of transitions.

We still do many of those things- but perhaps we need to think outside of the boxes in which we currently work within. There is great need out there…

The art of looking sideways…

This is the theme for next year’s Greenbelt Festival.

The arty-Christian group I am part of-  Aoradh, have still to decide whether we will be going to the next years festival as contributors. We have not even been asked yet! But our discussions had already concluded that most of us would like to go again, but only if in doing so, we did not waste too much of our energy on preparing something for a festival that is a long way from where we are- because Dunoon is our home, not Cheltenham.

We had thought that it might be good to think of a theme for this whole year- including potential involvement at the festival- and try to play with a stream of ideas. Not sure where this will go…

One suggestion (which arose from our take on ‘the art of looking sideways’) was to think about how we relate to one another- in our wider community. So, in this sense, the issue is how we look sideways at others as we journey forwards.

Readers of this blog will know that this is a recurrent theme for me- the issues of community, and relationship, and how we followers of Jesus might learn to live out the call to be collectives who are made distinctive by our love for one another.

But, in doing a little digging, I think that the Greenbelt theme actually comes from this book

The author, the late great graphic designer, Alan Fletcher, can be seen below promoting his book. Perhaps it might have been better to just show his images. You decide-

Despite this rather inscrutable promo, I ordered a copy. It is a mess of images and ideas that summarise our post modern fractured and disconnected (but beautiful) world.

And even though the spin that we in Aoradh took on the bare words seems to head in a different direction, I think that the issue of how we humans recollect- that is how we again learn to realise the communal and shared part of us- the ‘me’ that we discover only when becoming ‘we’- this is a vital issue for our times.

It continues to seem to me that our post modern disconnection has thrown us into a situation where everything is fast and fluid. We have a million ways to communicate, and a constant immersion in transience. What we have not yet found, but hopefully are still in the process of discovering, is how we might celebrate the depth and variety of each other again, within communal gatherings.

Our workplaces no longer facilitate this.

Our meeting places are increasingly on-line, and lack flesh on flesh contact.

Our clubs and churches are empty, or emptying.

What is the role for the followers of Jesus in this changing culture?

Could it be to stop,

And look sideways?