In recent weeks, news reports have noted the establishment of a well-regarded function of Great Britain’s governmental bureaucracy: The Ministry of Loneliness. The announcement was notable for several reasons:
• The need for this work has been known for years—loneliness is a health matter that correlates with diminished physical and mental health that has spread across Britain’s relational landscape.
• The work was first begun in memory of Jo Cox, a member of Parliament who was assassinated by a right-wing extremist in 2016. Ms. Cox had been a strong advocate for this effort.
• Few commentators—even the usually shrill voices—completely disregarded the idea as frippery or governmental overreach. Most observers have mused about the positive application of this concept in other places.
Where this leads me is obvious: With or without governmental approval or assistance, how could you and I engage in our own versions of loneliness-ministry? Given the prevalence of similar conditions in this country, how might we assess the presence of lonely people among us—and consider carefully our role in caring for them? What might be the function of churches in this matter?
Although loneliness doesn’t discriminate, it’s possible that those of us who are older may be especially vulnerable to the harmful effects of isolation. People our age who are secluded may not know how to ask for social contacts, and so may be as invisible as loneliness itself.
Although the primary concern for this work may be connected to healthcare, loneliness is also a spiritual matter: Being cut off from the love of God that comes to us in the presence of caring others.
Perhaps this matter could excite us—and some old friends!—enough that we gather up our combined assets and start our own “ministries of loneliness”!
That would be good news, indeed…!
(To subscribe, go to the upper right hand corner of the top banner and click on the three parallel lines. Scroll down to the subscription form and enter your information.)