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/ 22 March 2017

Start a Conversation: lead the way on tackling isolation

Dementia friendly gardening project - Credit C Overton Hart

Five leading Christian Charities, including Capital Mass (the Diocese-run link to the Church Urban Fund), have come together under the twitter handle #Faithtogether to encourage churches to play a major role in the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness and its first monthly focus on older people.

Under the slogan ‘Start a Conversation’, we want to mobilise Christians to help themselves and others around them – to become part of the solution – whether through talking to a neighbour, visiting an old friend, or just making time for people they meet.

Already Churches in the UK are doing more to address loneliness and isolation than any other social issue with 87% of churches having organised or informal activates in place[1].

Andy Burns, Director of Capital Mass, commented:

“Isolation is one of the key issues that churches had identified to us, which is one of the reasons we host learning groups to explore what inclusion looks like for people who are older”.

The “Start a Conversation” suggests seven steps for action as described in the following hyperlinks:

  1. Download top tips for starting a conversation
  2. Across London, join a learning conversation
  3. Explore starting a visiting and befriending scheme
  4. Get training and encouragement through the “Faith in Seniors” conference
  5. See how the Anna Chaplain model could support your work
  6. Download a report on church responses to isolation

Added to these simple steps you can sign-up to the Jo Cox Campaign and pledge to start a conversation.

On behalf of the five charities, Jeremy Sharpe, National Coordinator of Linking Lives UK said:

“This is a significant opportunity for churches to be salt and light in our communities.  Collectively churches are probably already the single most powerful movement of people reaching out to reach and support isolated older people and we are calling on people to make this visible by signing up the Jo Cox Commission campaign to ‘start a conversation’.”

Corin Pilling, Assistant Director of Community Engagement at Livability commented:

“A recent study found more than 1 in 3 people aged 75 and over say that feelings of loneliness are out of their control. Starting a conversation can in these circumstances be a real lifeline which is why we have launched our top ten tips for starting a conversation to support this campaign”.

Stephen Hammersley, Chief Executive of Pilgrims Friend Society, stated:

“We all know that loneliness in older people is a key determinant of social, spiritual mental and physical problems.  Our experience is that isolation from God is a vital part of this problem –  that is why we produce resources and conferences that help people come together to meet, share and learn of God’s love for them.”

Debbie Thrower, who leads “The Gift of Years” within the Bible Reading Fellowship, said:

“Together, we can dispel some of the fear surrounding getting older. We can aspire to lead lives that are more intense and rewarding. We can help all ages to appreciate the fruits of older age, and see long life as a crowning achievement. The goal is none other than a life lived deeply and well.  That is why we started The Gift of Years.”

If you are using social media, remember to use the hashtags #Faithtogether which will keep churches updated with what is going on and #HappyToChat – the Jo Cox Commission campaign extension and social media call to action to ‘Start a Conversation’.

[1] Church in Action Report, Church Urban Fund October 2016.

Photo: Dementia friendly gardening project – Credit C Overton Hart.

About Communications

The diocesan communications team provides support to the network of clergy, churches, parishes and other worshipping communities that comprises the Diocese of London, as well as to the staff teams of the London Diocesan Fund.

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