Isolation and loneliness is one of the biggest issues facing communities in Sussex. It has an impact on so many in our parishes and although we often think about isolation affecting people over the age of 65, loneliness is experienced by many groups within society, particularly as family groups no longer live in close proximity to each other and many people commute long distances for work.
Age UK have produced a loneliness map which gives specific details for all areas of Sussex.
The church, based in every community of the Diocese, is uniquely placed to address issues of loneliness, but will need a multi-faceted approach:
- Working collaboratively with other partners, both faith based and statutory.
- Theological reflection is essential if the church is to avoid becoming surrogate service providers rather than relationship builders.
- Providing opportunities to build sustainable relationships with individuals in the communities.
- Cross generational opportunities - potentially unique to churches. Numerous studies have shown an increasing division in our societies, but the church is the only place, apart from shops, where people can come together freely from every group in society.
Some of the Christian organisations that are working to alleviate loneliness in the Diocese are:
Time To Talk Befriending (Brighton and Hove)
Befriended (Mid Sussex - Burgess Hill and Hurstpierpoint)
There are also a number of excellent church cafes and coffee mornings running across the Diocese. In the rural areas, these are proving to be a very valuable part of the life of a village and have the potential to build effective community cohesion, particularly where they are cross generational.
Places of Welcome may be able help you and support you to set up, develop or expand your coffee morning.
Men’s Sheds operate in many towns across the Diocese. Frequently these projects are not faith based, although some churches are using the model to connect with men. This is an easy to set up community based project and could help connect men within the church congregations as well as in the wider community.
East and West Sussex are experiencing a growth in housing provision. New estates often do not have a central point allowing people to meet. Many churches across the region are finding themselves on the edge of new developments and not in the centre.Churches are now beginning to respond to some of the needs of the new estates and this is being supported by national advice initiatives, for example: