The Rev. Peter A. Lane
On Tuesday the Surgeon General of the United States released a report bringing attention to the widespread issue of loneliness in the country, along with six proposals or pillars on which to build a less lonely society. The report states that 1 in 2 people, or 50% of the population, report experiencing significant loneliness on a regular or chronic basis. Oftentimes, governmental or medical studies are received with a bit of skepticism, and that is certainly a healthy approach to any report and associated proposals that offer comprehensive assessments of and remedies for a large and diverse population such as ours. But this report struck a chord with me, and easily passed the “smell test” we often use to decide how much stock to put into such a study – it didn’t smell fishy to me; quite the contrary it struck me as an accurate assessment of our current emotional state as a society. The pandemic certainly exacerbated a condition that has been growing more widespread in our rapidly changing, technology-centric society. People are lonely, isolated, and hungry for connection and deep friendship. I see this on a regular basis in my ministry.
Unlike a lot of complicated medical, economic, or technological ailments that require experts to analyze and fix, the issue of loneliness is one that everybody can have a hand in both preventing and remedying. One of the pillars or recommendations in the Surgeon General’s report is to “cultivate a culture of connection.” Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been reading passages from the Acts of the Apostles describing the life and vitality of the early church. One of the characteristics of the early church was intentionally spending time with fellow believers and reaching out to those who had not yet had the profound experience of being loved unconditionally as a child of God, worthy of care, compassion, and dignity. As the ongoing expression of that early church, we are called to live in the same way.
It seems to me that even as the church writ large is becoming less central and important in the wider culture, we possess wisdom and experience that is, in the case of epidemic loneliness, just what the doctor ordered. At St. Alfred’s, we’ve been working hard to build a culture of connection. Our mantra – “All Welcomed. All Loved. No Exceptions.” is an important starting point for us. It succinctly states what we are called to do as part of the Body of Christ, to welcome, love, and respect everyone we encounter. But we need to and have been working hard to ensure that we really live into our mission as stated above.
Our Care Call ministry, our fellowship and learning opportunities, our support groups and visitation ministries are all designed to provide deep and meaningful connections for people through which they can feel the love and respect of others and know in the deepest part of their beings how much they are loved by God.
So, how are you doing? Can you relate to this reality of how lonely so many of us are? Are you finding ways to connect with others here at St. Alfred’s and become involved in healthy and supportive activities? These are not idle questions from me but are asked with the sincere hope that if you are lonely and in need of connection that you will let me know. There is balm for your lonely soul here at St. Alfred’s; we all know and understand loneliness, and we know the cure. Come, taste, and see the goodness and love of God as found in the care and understanding of your brothers and sisters here at St. Alfred’s, and then share that goodness and love with another, and another, and another. God knows, and we know, we’re all hungry for it.
See you in church.