Thursday, 11 July 2013

With Great Gratitude!

I am not continuing to write on Archdeacon in the Dales, but I see that quite a few people still read it. Exceptionally, after the decision to move to a new Diocese of Leeds (West Yorkshire and the Dales - not forgetting North Yorkshire and parts of Co Durham!) I'd like to send you all a brief message and this seemed the best medium - 

'Greetings! Following the General Synod's approval of the Dioceses Commission Scheme on Monday, I want to send my good wishes to everyone in the three dioceses as you come together. I am sure this will prove to be a move that opens up an exciting future with a good many possibilities for parishes, cathedrals and staff to work together to be more effective in mission and service. I keep the three dioceses and everyone affected by the decision in my prayers. I also want to thank you for all the many, many kind messages you have sent over the past few weeks which Dave and I have greatly appreciated.  We have received so many it is taking some time to respond to them all, but we are grateful for friendship, love and prayers.'



Janet Henderson and Dave Challoner


New blog is at www.socialhorizons.blogspot.com It's about social justice, community development and theology, trying to be forward looking!

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Farewell







Life seems to have been ridiculously busy over the past two weeks with talks to give about the Dioceses Commission, training days for area deans and lay chairs, meetings at Church House and the usual run of services and other meetings. As well as that, organised by Vicki and the good folk of Christ Church Harrogate Centre, we have succeeded in moving the Archdeaconry office to Harrogate. My successor, the Revd Nicholas Henshall, has now been 'in post' for three days he is contactable on nicholas.henshall@riponleeds-diocese.org.uk 

So, sadly, it is time to say 'goodbye' on Archdeacon in the Dales. Thank you to all who have read regularly and to those who have dipped in occasionally. Thank you to all who have commented, encouraged or admonished either on the bolg or by e mail or when we have met. I now realise the potential of digital space to create community. Yes, it is a different sort of community from the one that meets face to face, and it not unrelated to that community as it brokers introductions of people with similar interests and concerns. It is also a community that can lobby for things. I have been astonished how many casues or concerns I have been drawn into through the online community and how much difference can be made by using the internet to organise debate, protest and mutual support. It is also an effective way to get into deep conversations with people about matters of faith. And it can be fun!  

I was delighted to see so many at my farewell service at St Mary's Richmond on 20th January despite the appalling road conditions. A huge thank you to all who braved the elements and also to those who sent their apologies - having broken my arm in the snow in 2009 I am always pleased when people decide to stay at home rather than risk their safety. I cannot reply to everyone individually, but I do thatnk you you all most sincerely for your thoughtfulness, love and friendship. St Mary's choir once again sang a superb evensong and the hospitality flowed. Thank you, too, to John Chambers, Antony Kirby, Colin Hicks, Gillian Lunn and the refreshment team for organising the occasion. It was good to be among freinds and, though we will miss you all a great deal, I am sure we will be back from time to time to visit - we definitely have North Yorkshire on our (short) list of places for future holidays!

Someone asked me what my most abiding memories of the Archdeaconry will be. 'Too many to say,' is the answer, but here are some:

  • Slithering around on the ice in Aldbrough St John's on the way to an induction and being rescued by two kind people - one in a landrover and the other who had braved the elements to walk across the ice rink that was the village road.

  • Visiting the church at Kirkby Wiske to take a harvest service and finding it almost entirely surrounded by water.

  • Carols by candle light and harmonium at Thorton Steward.

  • Arranging to meet a farmer in the fog 'at the third cattle grid' on the moors above Nidderdale. I had my doubts, but we connected up OK!

  • Chips sitting on the wall with the bikers at Hawes after an evening meeting.

  • An open air ordination at Stalling Busk on a sultry summer's evening over looking Semerwater. (I had to remind the congregation that even the mosquitoes are God's own creatures.)

  • Complimenting a vet on his goat, only to discover it was a Norwegian sheep!

  • Stopping the car in numerous places (The Stang, Buttertubs, the road from Leyburn to Grinton above Swaledale, the road down from Green How across Bewerley Moor to Pateley) just to thank God for the majesty of the land and to drink it in for a few moments.

  • Going to countless churches and homes and schools and receiving a warm welcome.

  • The wonderful food - I can truly say I have never tasted better food than in Yorkshire!

  • Worshipping with 12 people or with 350, using the Book of Common Prayer or a powerpoint projector and Twitter, in a Grade 1 listed building or a tent, sitting on bales.

  • The liveliness and willingness to serve of the people who identify themselves as Christian in every community.

Thank you all for 6 years I will never forget. I will keep you in my prayers, especially over the next few months as decisions are made about the future shape of the Church of England in Yorkshire, and hope you will keep me in yours! 



Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Suchet on Beethoven

Along with about a quarter of the population, we had flu over Christmas. So I was very grateful to have been given John Suchet's new book  Beethoven, the Man Revealed published by Elliott and Thompson Ltd, London 2012.  I almost read it in one sitting. Suchet himself insists that the biography is primarily about Beethoven the man - this is not a study of his music but rather a book that gives us insight into his life (and especially his early formation) which then helps us to listen to his music with greater understanding.

Beethoven by Joseph Karl Stieler 1819

Beethoven had a singularly chaotic early life, born to parents who were simply not capable of giving him any stability or modelling for him a disciplined approach to everyday living, let alone giving him the personal skills needed to organise the life of a practising musician. The picture I had had of Beethoven's early life was that his later problems stemmed from the ill health, poverty and neglect of his parents. Suchet paints a picture that is a bit more complex - a well connected grandfather whom he hardly knew but of whom he could be proud and a somewhat sporadic relationship of affection with his mother and siblings, for whom he had to assume responsibility in his teenage years as his father's alchoholism took a grip. The memories of contemporaries who knew him as an unkempt and unsociable child tug at the heart strings.

Things started to go rather better for him in his late teenage years and early adulthood. Suchet takes great pains to describe for us a formative trip along the Rhine with fellow musicians showing Beethoven as a young man on a spree with friends who had similar interests. You can imagine the gesting and ribbing that took place though music was never far away and the trip ended with Beethoven giving an 'unparalleled display of virtuosity' at an inprovisation contest with the pianist Sterkel. By the time he was 26 he had moved to Vienna and was demonstrably the city's most accomplished all-round musician, mixing with aristocracy and royalty and making a fair income. His fame was spreading across central Europe and, as well as being outstanding (but often reluctant) at the contemporary fashion for improvisation, he had a good number of compositions to his name - though not yet a symphony. He had not been lucky in love but, in most other respects, it looked as though he had a great future ahead and was well positioned to devote himself to a life of perfomance, conducting and composition. Then disaster struck. He found he was going deaf. He began to lose his hearing shortly after a 'frightful attack of typhus' (it may not have been typhus but it was described as such by contemporaries.) We cannot be sure that the two occurrences were related, but gradually, over the next three years, Beethoven was forced to face the fact that the worst possible fate for a musician had befallen him.

Throughout this time, as at every other period of his life, he continued to pour out a constant stream of compositions, working on ever more demanding and complex works. -At this time he produced his first symphony and the Pathetique Sonata which represented a huge stride forward in the genre. But his increasing deafness was a disaster for him and, as denial gave way to realisation and acceptance that he could no longer hold a normal conversation or hear his own music well enough to conduct without embarrassment, he became depressed.  He sought solitude in the country and considered suicide. His heroic spirit won through. This was the man who, in his early life, admired Napoleon. We can only imagine what superhuman effort it took, but he decided that, for as long as he could compose, he would not end his own life. Although it was his musical genius that made his deafness such a very cruel blow, perhaps it was also this genius, expressing itself in an unstoppable urge to creativity, that saved his life.

The most striking thing about Beethoven is that whatever was going on in his personal life, whether he was in a happy phase, hoping for success in his latest flirtation or tormented by illness, loneliness or business problems, he just went on and on composing. Music, and music such as had never before been conceived of, flowed from him. Chaos, repeated disappointment in love, constant moving around from apartment to apartment, the success or failure of his music - none of these prevented him from composing, advancing all the while in the scope of his creative imagination. In many ways you get the impression that Beethoven did find comfort and fulfilment in his art. Yet he struggled so much in so many areas of his life. A deeply affectionate man, he never found the longed for wife to settle down with and he had to battle with the increasing social isolation that deafness inevitably brought in an age where there were no aids and there was little understanding of the difficulties. 

Beethoven showed his worst side in the way in which he relentlessly pursued the guardianship of his nephew in flagrant disregard for the wishes of both the boy himself and his mother. Why did he do this? Was it a mixture of loneliness, fear, hurt family pride and the obsessiveness which also drove him towards the family weakness - alchohol abuse? Gradually the paradox of a life that was falling apart and music that was reaching sublime heights deepened. At the time he was composing the Missa Solemnis, he was mistaken for a tramp and arrested. The constable who arrested him described him as wearing a moth-eaten old coat and no hat, having a suspicious manner and yelling at the top of his voice, 'I am Beethoven'. Clearly a madman. At the height of his arguments with his remaining brother, sister-in-law and nephew he was composing the sublime late quartets including the String Quartet in F, opus 135 with its almost light-hearted sections.

John Suchet's book achieves its end. He succeeds in telling the story of Beethoven's life in a way that gives some new emphases. He offers some personal theories where there are gaps or mysteries in the available data. But, above all, he presents us with the very moving and human story of a man called to live with an absolute imperative to produce music such as the world had never dreamt of while also bearing the burden of deafness. That he transcended this potent cocktail of potential and limitation is the miracle of Beethoven's life and legacy.   



   

Friday, 4 January 2013

A Sense of Place

Did any of you watch the programme in which Rowan Williams said Goodbye to Canterbury over the New Year? I think it was a BBC 2 production. In it, he took the viewer round Canterbury cathedral and spoke very movingly about what it had been like to live with the building over the past ten years. It is a place where you cannot but be conscious of history in the making, a place that reminds you that even the most seemingly permanent things change and a place of incessant pilgrimage. It looks two ways - inwards to Britain and outwards to mainland Europe and beyond. The most moving bit was, for me, when he spoke about what it does to you to have to preside at the eucharist in the place and on the date when one of your predecessors was brutally murdered. It must be difficult to live humbly and calmly with the spectre of Beckett's martyrdom yearly, if not daily before your eyes.

The programme set me thinking about what the buildings and places we worship in do to us. How do they shape what we focus on in worship, what we see as important (or perhaps don't see) and what we think about ourselves and our place in the order of things?  I was, for a number of years, Priest-in-Charge of St Patrick's church in Nuthall, Nottingham. Anne Ascough (of Fox's Martyrs fame) lived in the village for a while before her marriage. She espoused the Reformers' ideas and was said to have read scripture, in English, from the lectern in Lincoln cathedral.  She became a member of the Queen's court and a lay preacher but was eventually (aged around 24) tortured, tried and executed at the stake for her theological leanings in a plot that was really aimed to flush out Katherine Parr's Protestant sympathies and remove her from her position as Queen. Once I knew the story of Anne, I could never read from the lectern in Nuthall without thinking of her and what she and people like her had gone through so that we can read the Bible in our own language. I used to feel very ashamed of myself if I had not prepared my sermon properly in a way that I haven't quite done before or since. It seemed somehow deeply disrespectful to treat scripture lightly in the shadow of Anne's presence.

I think all the buildings I have worshipped in regularly over the years have had quite a profound influence on the person I have become. The fourth century foundation and early manuscripts of one church spoke inspirationally of the connection of our faith to its origins; the lack of imagery and the plain furniture and decor of another chapel focused me on the word, both scriptural and rational, and taught me not to leave my intellect behind when worshipping; the constant vandalism against the church buildng in another place focused the whole Christian family outwards to care beyond the bubble of church life and to campaign and work for social justice that was specific and tangible. My present job as an archdeacon means that I live the life of contrasts - one Sunday caught up in wonder by the possibilities of transcendence held out in the splendour of a vast building with a wonderful choir, another Sunday humbled and touched by the sincerity of a tiny gathering which materialises determinedly and courageously from the flood and fog-clad countryside. One Sunday, caught up suddenly in the realisation that about the same number of people would have been engaged in Prayer Book worship in that very church nearly 400 years ago, using the words we are using and sitting where we are sitting, gazing at the hills framed by the East window and a great oak tree. Another Sunday feeling the excitement of being part of a group worshipping together for the first time in a cricket club bar with the staff pulling pints and looking on in some puzzlement.

How does your church building challenge you and tangle with your life?  

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Weather-induced Crisis for Farmers

Some farmers are facing severe problems this winter following the very poor weather we've had across the UK this year. I quote from a recent article by Andy Rylands.

'Farm Crisis Network has confirmed that casework is already double that normally experienced at this time of year. The Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution has paid out two-and-a-half times as much money in emergency grants to two-thirds more farmers than in the same period last year.'

The Prince of Wales' Countryside Fund has announced it will donate £150,000, the total amount available in its emergency fund, to help farmers who are struggling through the winter months as a result of this year's extreme weather. The Met. Office has confirmed that the summer of 2012 has been the wettest in the UK since records began. A drought across much of England during the spring was followed by this record-breaking wet weather; this has led to an exceptionally poor harvest for some farmers resulting, in turn, in higher costs for food to feed livestock and higher prices for the seed to grow next season's crops. In addition, the wet autumn has meant that it is difficult to prepare the ground for next year's crops. Around us, here in Ripon, we have witnessed some of this year's crops go to waste as they simply could not be harvested due to the impossibility of getting heavy machinery onto water-logged land. In addition to problems caused by inclement weather for growing crops and producing food, there have been health issues for livestock with very high incidences of liver fluke affecting cattle and sheep.

At a recent emergency meeting called by the Prince of Wales with the leaders of UK rural charities (the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institution, Farm Crisis Network, the Addington Fund in England and Wales and RSABI in Scotland), it was agreed that £150,000 would be donated from the Prince's Fund to help farmers in crisis across the UK. The Duke of Westminster announced that he would personally match the funding. The Prince of Wales said,

'I have been growing increasingly concerned about the many difficulties which farmers from all sectors are facing - and are likely to face - this winter and so I thought it was important for us to come together, hear what we each have to report, and then I want to see what I can do to help through my Prince's Countryside Fund.'

The charities will use the money to boost the work they ordinarily do. Some supply food vouchers while volunteers have stared to carry Foodbank boxes in their cars to give immediate help when they visit farms. All the farming charities' helplines have received an increased number of calls, including calls from individuals contemplating suicide. This will be the first time that the Prince's Countryside Fund has had to use all its emergency funding and this is undoubtedly a reflection of just how difficult a time farmers are having. The worst impact is yet to come and will be felt from January/February onwards.

I wanted to bring this situation to churches' attention. As we all focus on the festivities of Christmas, please be aware and on the look out for families and individuals who are struggling, please support food banks and the various farming charities, and please pray for farmers everywhere. Be on the look out for the fact that you stop seeing someone around for a day or two. Notice when you visit someone whose house is exceptionally cold.  Once again, my thanks to Andy for much of this information.


Feeling Chilly?


Community Hubs in North Yorkshire


Andy Rylands, our rural officer, sent me this information: 

Rural Action Yorkshire has received funding from North Yorkshire County Council to undertake an project to support the development of community hubs

The funding received is to be used to provide preventative social care and early interventions through the establishment and support of 7 Community Hubs within the rural areas of North Yorkshire. The hubs will be developed within existing community buildings such as village halls, libraries and community centres, which currently act as a focal point for members of the local community and already have activities taking place.

The project aims to build on the existing services within the local area, as well as developing new services, which will offer information, resources and community development support to vulnerable individuals and those more isolated members of the community.

The project is keen to encourage new and innovative ideas and to support new services and activities identified by its users.  Examples of services that may be encouraged to develop through this project would be activities such as: community caf├ęs, allotments, drop-in centres, luncheon clubs, exercise classes, arts and crafts and other social activity groups.  It is also hoped that the hubs could provide focused support for specific groups, such as those with dementia, mobility problems or the bereaved.

As part of the project, RAY is in the process of setting up a small fund, to help hubs with some of the initial project set-up costs.  We recognize that in the early stages of a project, it is often difficult to access funds to pay for things such as promotional material, printing and meeting room hire - we hope that access to small grants will encourage and give confidence to groups to consider and explore new initiatives.

RAY has recently recruited a Community Hubs Development Officer, Tess McMahon, to work with groups and individuals and help develop and shape initiatives that meet their local needs. Tess will provide support to volunteers setting up projects within the identified community hubs as well as helping the project steering groups devise a longer term plans to safeguard their project’s sustainability and promote a social enterprising approach.

This will include assisting hub groups to make contact with local businesses, statutory organisations and both the private and public sector. To strengthen their focus on achieving sustainability, any groups who access funding from RAY will also be encouraged to repay a percentage of the initial costs. This will also have the benefit of putting money back into the pot for other groups to access in the future and extend the benefits derived.

Tess is currently in the process of making contact with community groups in North Yorkshire to identify which ones may be interested in the project and would like to establish a hub within their building. If your village hall, library, community centre or other community-based venue is interested in being part of this project, please contact Tess for more information.

You can contact
Tess McMahon Community Hubs Development Officer 07540 691029 Email: Tess McMahon
 
This project runs from 1 May 2012 – 30 April 2014

Christmas Lunch in Richmond



Each Christmas a group of local individuals and charities pool their time, resources and energy to provide lunch on Christmas Day for people who are Homeless, Lonely, or Just By Themselves.
Provided will be a full Christmas 3 course meal inculding Turkey, Christmas Pudding, pigs in blankets, candles, Christmas crackers, gifts and decorations etc.
People may just wish to walk in, but we will also use cars and minibuses to transport people to the venue.
In past years it has been a wonderful event with a lovely family atmosphere.
Would you like to be a Guest or a Helper or if you know someone who would please contact either Keith Hall - 850961, Stuart Parsons - 823456 or Linda Curran - 824626.
Supported by Kings Church Richmondshire, Richmond Town Council and Carricks


Thanks to Gillian Lunn for alerting me to this.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Space at Ripon Cathedral

Ripon Cathedral is hosting a new series of full day retreats and monthly evening meetings to explore spirituality and meditation. These will run throughout 2013/4.



SPACE will offer a day-long retreat based on a particular theme such as Wonder, Compassion, Journeying. The day will involve stillness, reflection and guided meditation.

SPACE BETWEEN will be a monthly evening meeting offering time to explore, as a group, the meanings, values and beliefs associated with the theme of the SPACE retreat days. There will also be time for stillness and meditation.

Come to some or come to all - create your own journey. 

There will be a taster session for SPACE on Saturday 19th January 2013 at Thorpe Prebend House, Ripon HG4 1QR from 10.30 - 12noon. For more information
e mail SPACEripon@gmail.com or ring the Cathedral office on 01765 603583

Monday, 26 November 2012

Flood Heroes

Please all take extra special care in this rain. I hope that no one will have to be a hero, but BBC Radio York have just issued this:
BBC RADIO YORK FLOOD HERO AWARDS 2012
How to nominate a hero or heroine

During the floods which hit York and North Yorkshire in late September 2012, listeners told BBC Radio York about the wonderful people who went the extra mile to help them.

The BBC Radio York Flood Hero Awards give a chance to celebrate those special people in our communities, whether they’re individuals or teams.

We want to hear about the good work people did – maybe you met a person, a group or a team who went above and beyond what was expected at that time of crisis.

We also want your nominations for brave animals affected by the floods in York and North Yorkshire – what did they endure and what made them special?

Panels of judges will choose the human winners in nine categories, and shortlist the bravest animal which will be put to a text vote.

We are looking for nominations in the following categories, and you can send your entries by emailor by post. Entries close at 11.59pm on Sunday 2
nd December 2012, and the Awards will be given in March 2013.

What you need to tell us

Tell us YOUR name, postal address, email address and your daytime contact phone number.

In no more than 200 words tell us why the individual or team deserves special recognition for helping during the floods in York and North Yorkshire.

If your nominee is an individual, don’t forget to tell us his or her name and how to contact – eg address or workplace, if relevant.

If your nominee is in a group or team, don’t forget to tell us the name of the team or organisation, and how to contact them – eg workplace address.

If your nominee is younger than 16 years old you will need to provide evidence of their parent/guardian consent.

The actions for which the nomination is being made must have occurred between 24
th and 30th September 2012.

BBC Radio York will be covering some of the stories sent in while the nomination period is open.

Qualifying period and geographical area

The good deed must have happened between 24
th and 30th September 2012, within the boundaries of the City of York and the County of North Yorkshire. 2


Flood Hero Awards Categories

Most Helpful Individual

(the helpful act occurred within the York and North Yorkshire geographical area)

Most Helpful Team

(the helpful act occurred within the York and North Yorkshire geographical area)

Most Helpful Hambleton District Individual or Team

(the helpful act occurred within the Hambleton District Council geographical area)

Most Helpful Richmondshire District Individual or Team

(the helpful act occurred within the Richmondshire District Council geographical area)

Most Helpful Harrogate Borough Individual or Team

(the helpful act occurred within the Harrogate Borough Council geographical area)

Most Helpful City of York Individual or Team

(the helpful act occurred within the City of York Council geographical area)

Most Helpful Selby District Individual or Team

(the helpful act occurred within the Selby District Council geographical area)

Most Helpful Emergency Services Individual or Team

(the helpful act occurred within the York and North Yorkshire geographical area)

Most Helpful Emergency Planning Individual or Team

(the helpful act occurred within the York and North Yorkshire geographical area)

Bravest Animal

(the animal resided within the York and North Yorkshire geographical area)

Nominations close

The deadline for nominations is 11.59pm on Sunday 2
nd December 2012.

Where to send your nominations

By post: BBC Radio York Flood Hero Awards 2012, 20 Bootham Row, York, YO30 7BR.
By email: floodheroawards@bbc.co.uk

Data Protection

The BBC will only use your personal details for the purposes of administering this award, and will not publish them or provide them to anyone not connected with the award without your permission. Your details, and those of your nominee, may be used by a researcher before awards are given, to highlight interesting stories from the floods. You will be contacted by a producer if we wish to feature you and your nominee in this way. Please visit the BBC's Privacy & Cookies Policy (
www.bbc.co.uk/privacy) for more information.


Noel Coward at Kirkby Overblow


Kirkby Overblow Dramatic Society will be performing two one-act plays entitled Still Life and Red Peppers, both from Noel Coward's Tonight at 8.30, a collection of ten short plays Coward wrote in 1935.  Still Life was one of the most influential plays from the collection and follows the lives of a suburban housewife and a successful doctor who meet by chance at a railway station. Their paths accidentally cross again the following week and without realising it they fall in love.  Many people will know Brief Encounter, the film that was made of the play in 1945 starring Trevor Howard and Celia Johnson.  Red Peppers is Coward's affectionate take on life in the music-halls of the 1930s.  George and Lily Pepper form a music-hall act which has been touring the provinces for years, still using the same routine that George's parents used before him.  Needless to say, the Peppers are slipping further and further down the bill.  The play involves two musical numbers from this routine, the last number going spectacularly wrong!

Performances from Thursday 29th  November to Saturday 1 December.
 
The link to their site seems to be broken this morning, but if anyone wants further information or tickets, email me and I'll put you in touch.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

'A Poor Do,' my Grandfather Would Have Said

Over thirty years ago now, my introduction to nursing was as a nursing auxilliary on a psycho-geriatric ward. We used to work 13 hour night shifts and I grew to love the patients - we spent more time with them than with our own families. Many were such characters that I remember them to this day. There was one who had owned a pub and who used to call 'time gentlemen please' whenever he wanted to get rid of unwelcome nurses or visitors at his bedside. Then there was one who had fled from Russia in the wake of the 1917 revolution and who used to enthrall us with tales of life in St Petersburg - some of which, I suspect, were grossly exaggerated but nevertheless gave a wonderful flavour of a long-lost culture. Many of our patients had physical and mental frailties that they coped with bravely - more bravely than I think I could. Some hardly ever had visitors.

I think the saddest article I have read this week (in The Times) was one that drew attention to the fact that many over 75's in Britain say they feel intensely lonely. Jeremy Hunt, the health minister, has launched a project to help councils, health services and social care agencies map isolation among the very elderly and  improve services so that people do not suffer from 'social disconnection' - a rather grand title for feeling abandoned and very lonely.

It is often said that you can judge how civilized a society is by its attitude to its oldest members. While I am sure that the majority of people respect and love their older relatives and friends, do we in fact do enough for them in our ever busier lives? What most older people need is time. Even carers now have such tight schedules that it is difficult for them to spend time 'just talking'. Apparently more than half of those over 75 live alone and about a tenth of them report very profound levels of isolation. One in five have contact with family or neighbours less than once a week. Loneliness effects a person's physical as well as mental health and the research suggests that not having any company can lead to higher levels of heart disease, stroke and dementia. It also leads to loss of confidence so that a person can spiral into a state of mind where they just can't motivate themselves to go out and meet people.

The article, by Rosemary Bennett, the Times' Social Affairs Correspondent, with its picture of an elderly lady looking absolutely desolate, frankly made me feel like crying. I can't imagine many things worse than simply not having anyone to go to with your problems and successes, no one to off-load to after an upsetting experience, no one to laugh with or to make you feel that you are understood and appreciated. One elderly person I talked to recently said how difficult she found clinic appointments. She would look forward to having a morning out with people to talk to but then find that although she was asked a lot of questions she came away feeling that there had been no real two-way comminucation which made her feel even more alone. 

What can we do? I know that many churches have teas and events for older people. One church runs 'holidays at home' for people who need a summer holiday but can't go very far. I know that here in my own village, people do look out for neighbours who live alone or need help. Apparently there is now a Campaign to End Loneliness and it is good that the government is drawing attention to the problem. However, I suspect the real answer is that we need to reveiw our attitude to older people. They are the members of our society who have the long-term narrative, they are often the ones who have learned to live with paradox and disappointment and yet somehow make sense of life. They have a perspective we can ill afford to ignore. Time spent with an older person is probably one of the most important things you can do. And even when communication may be difficult because of deafness or confusion it still matters that the gift of time has been given. 

When Winston Churchill had his 75th birthday a photographer said to him, 'Sir, I hope that I will also take your picture on your 100th birthday.' Churchill answered, 'I don't see why you shouldn't, young man. You look reasonably fit and healthy!'  Many of us are living into our 90's and 100's these days. The final 25 years of life should not be lived in loneliness. These years can be a time to cultivate a sense of fun and, in the best possible way, to help others not to take themselves too seriously! They can be a time to share wisdom and memories and to make new friends too. We had a lady in my last parish who, at 92, used to tell catarpillar jokes and play the mouth organ at church events. The children absolutely loved her. Another lady used to come to everything and just sit and smile at everybody. She never said much, even in a discussion group, but everybody missed her when she wasn't there.

If you want to do something to help (or do it through your church) or if you are feeling lonely, visit

 
Or speak to your local Vicar or minister - lurk at the church door or give them a ring.