Wednesday, February 23, 2005

I think we've missed something...

I've just been listening, in a desultory, day-off sort of way, to Women's Hour, where they were having a phone- in on loneliness. Nothing too startling there, perhaps, with all those familiar statistics telling us that more people now live alone than ever before. All sorts of perspectives were represented, with a groundswell of opinion that it wasn't always helpful to be offered companionship solely through networks of those in a similar position . Young mums were adamant that the toddler group wasn't always the answer, while pensioners lamented the narrow client-base of the groups offered to them. One lady suggested that the local council could promote situations in which people were able to encounter diverse ages and backgrounds, to offer mutual companionship and support.
'Sounds like the church', I thought to myself....but neither callers nor "experts" so much as hinted that this might be an issue that the church could engage with. Not even a nod in our direction. That hurt, really....and made me think, too, about how we square the circle of creating an inclusive community while embracing the insights about network society that are so much on the agenda for us. No conclusions, just sadness that we are so clearly missing the mark and failing to reach out even where there is a perceived need.

11 comments:

Ron Cole said...

That was one of my struggles being in a small parish and trying be missional to the local community and its needs. With a small Parish to try and take on an iniatiative to deal with some of the issues your post brings up, is near to impossible...almost. I have tried to get parish memebers to engage in an alternative. To get involved in existing programs in the community. We don't need to claim them as ours, but we can have an influence and be a spiritual presence that seems to be an alternative that alot of folks have forgotten about or ignore.
But I too share in your saddness the christian community/ church is not seen as an option for dealing with loneliness.

the reverend mommy said...

True on this side of the pond, as well.
(deep sadness.)

Grumbling At God said...

Hm - I would say that churches simply heighten the loneliness problems. If someone is lonely, I would have thought the worst place they can be with it is in the church.

Sorry to be negative.

Kathryn said...

I kind of wondered if some people might see things your way; hence my title for this post. I do, sadly, realise that too many people have the sort of negative experience of church which you imply. It's not that surprising, given that churches are made up of people..but the huge tragedy is that the failings of church members are dishonouring the Church herself...and by extension the God whose body she is.
Time for a bit of sackcloth, methinks.

DaveF said...

? Maybe I'm still missing something but isn't the church more than a social support group?
Would you expect the beeb to say "well join your local mosque"? Wouldn't that imply you needed to share that faith? Would the same be true of "join your local church"?
Or is this supposed to happen outside of the worship life? A bit of funding from the council wouldn't go amiss then!

Kathryn said...

Dave, yes of course the church should be more than a social support group...but it would be good to think that at least some churches had managed to practice love in action so that they figured on the mental map of sources of friendship and support. There's an awful lot written about the relative priority of believing and belonging...but befriending might seem to be a positive good in itself, no?

Grumbling At God said...

Yes, there is the point that the church is meant to be more than a social club. I certainly would not deny that. However, community and belonging are very key elements in the church - are they not?

All that said, I am wildly against the false friendship culture that builds up when trying to coerce a lost soul into a church. Having been on the receiving end (and seen it happen loads of times) - ie - you find you are someone's best friend until you commit to the church and then agh - you are dropped - not sure if that is worse to be honest ?

Sorry, GiP, I hope I am not using your blog to get on my soap box!

DaveF said...

Some (many?) churches do (am I giving up cynicism for lent?). I'm just not sure how Womans Hour would recognise or publicise this or (no, I'm not giving up cynicism) even if they would find it PC enough to mention them specifically.
My church runs lunch clubs for the elderly and young mums as well as clubs, a toy library jolly tots (even I can see mums and tots is inappropriate naming) and help groups for young mums (usually via SS referals). It would be nice to get some help from the local council!
I wasn't questioning the befriending.

DaveF said...

Sorry if that sounded smug about "my church" - I am just trying to be positive :-)

Anonymous said...

Most people I meet outside the church, particularly young people, expect the church to be prescriptive and judgemental. How to change that perception is the BIG question.

Caroline said...

I wonder if part of the problem is that 'church' meets at specific times that might not suit others?

Obviously, a small church couldn't be open 24-7, but could we find ways of moving towards that?

I'm playing around with ideas that I'm learning from the Celtic monastic traditions at the moment, not sure that I'm hugely wise yet, but the notion of being a community rather than a series of events might be one way of developing new ways of being available to others