The Loneliness Epidemic

by Pastor Kim McSheehy, serving with Immanuel Communities and an ELCA Coach

I have noticed recurring themes in what I am reading; there is a loneliness epidemic and a lack of empathy in society. There are many reasons for these changes, which resulted in people finding it hard to connect and feel understood. I believe the local congregation is in a unique spot help overcome these challenges. We have a message of “good news of great joy” of God who loves us.

During Lent, many congregations have shared meals prior to midweek worship. Many congregations have coffee and treats before/after Sunday Worship. Meals are a wonderful place for conversation and connection. Think about at how many Bible stories revolve around a shared meal.

The key in any conversation is listening to understand and having a genuine back and forth sharing stories and connecting. My call takes me into the lives of a diverse group of older adults and curiosity helps me connect with them.

When meeting someone for the first time, my curiosity is comparable to turning on a tap or slowly wading into a lake. Easy questions: “How are you today?” “How is the unpacking going?” For someone I have not seen a while maybe asking, “What is new in your life?”

Over time as a relationship grows, I may ask personal questions, such as: “What is important to you?” “What is one thing you would like me to know about you?”

Going deeper still, “When you imagine God; how do you picture the divine creator?” What element of worship do you enjoy the most? How do you see God at work in world, community, congregation, etc.?

Over the years, I’ve found that questions which begin with What and How invite conversation. Being curious has helped me understand the challenges others face that I never experienced.