Churches well placed to alleviate loneliness

Befriending
"Many churches are at the centre of their community and offer networks of warm, caring, supportive relationships" Very Rev Dr Angus Morrison.

A former Moderator has said the thought of elderly people putting themselves at risk of being scammed brought “tears” to his eyes.

Very Rev Dr Angus Morrison spoke out after a charity said a crisis of loneliness” is leading to the financial abuse of vulnerable pensioners.

Action on Elder Abuse Scotland believes some people are being targeted because they simply have no one else to talk to.

Dr Morrison said it was a “tragic” situation and described it as a “wake-up call” for society.

Action on Elder Abuse Scotland is to launch a pilot peer-support project in Fife in an attempt to tackle the growing problem.

The Dunfermline-based charity will provide a trained volunteer for pensioners who have been victims of abuse to help rebuild their confidence and independence.

Caring and supportive

Dr Morrison, minister of Orwell and Portmoak Parish Church, was Moderator of the General Assembly in 2015-16 and used his time in office to highlight the impact of loneliness.

“It is tragic that some lonely people are willing to take the risk of being scammed just to have the opportunity to talk to someone,” he added.

“That brought tears to my eyes.

“This is a wake-up call to us all to recognise the often hidden reality of this loneliness ‘epidemic’, and to do all we can together to address it.”

Angus Morrison
Very Rev Dr Angus Morrison

Dr Morrison said Church of Scotland congregations across the country played a major part in supporting lonely people.

“Many local churches are at the centre of their community and offer networks of warm, caring, supportive relationships,” he added.

“Congregations are increasingly aware of this problem and many are actively looking out for lonely and isolated folk in their parish and seeking to offer whatever support they can.

“For example, in my own parish of Orwell and Portmoak we have been running a regular ‘tea and a blether’ afternoons in our church halls.

“Church folk are encouraged to contact, invite and bring along people in their neighbourhood who they believe would appreciate this opportunity simply to meet and chat with others over a cuppa, in a very relaxed setting.”

Community

Dr Morrison said the initiative has been successful and the congregation hopes to develop it.

“Coming alongside folk is what we are good at in the church and that is essentially what the lonely need,” he added.

“Without action, the problem can only get worse as our population continues to age and community breakdown remains a reality.”