Recently I made a really fascinating discovery that, up until the beginning of 19th century, the word 'Loneliness' didn't exist. Presumably, because people lived in small communities in which everyone knew everyone, there was no need for a language of loneliness. How things have changed! Today we have what has been termed an epidemic of loneliness.
In the next few months we will be hoping to start the building work on the 'Welcome Area'; much of the work is work that has needed to be done, such as improving disabled access; upgrading utilities; replacing structure that is tired or even falling down. The majority of the cost is due to much-needed infrastructure rather than a 'fancy' kitchen. However, I also believe there is a bigger vision. To offer a safe space for welcome and belonging, to offer support to people who are struggling with loneliness. Perhaps it could be a 'listening space' for those who feel they have no one to hear them; perhaps a gathering place for parents of young children who feel isolated and alone; perhaps it could be a 'safe space' for those who are struggling to remember but may be prompted by shared memories; perhaps it could be a practical space for those who have no access to the internet in a world where everything is online.
These are some of the ideas that the Church Leadership Team are exploring, so that we might truly create a 'Welcome Area' that offers hospitality to those who need it most. Perhaps this changes the word 'Welcome' from an easily-used expression to a description of something that truly transforms.
To read Helen's full article from our LINK magazine, click here.