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Hallo again to all.

Tristan da CunhaWe like to think of the Church as a bulwark against loneliness and isolation—the primary place where we gather to know

That love that made us makes us one
And strangers now are friends.

We have known of parishes where the welcome is weak. We have heard anecdotes about people who sit in pews for decades without developing any friendships with their neighbors, or even having someone ask their names. But our sense is that the better experience of small or serious friendships and relationships of care growing out of weekly attendance on worship is as widespread as the alternative.

Anglican demographics in the Global North skew toward advancing age and general urbanity, meaning that many of our congregations have substantial populations of older persons who occupy an interstitial space between independence in their homes and assisted living in a care facility. They may be recent widows or widowers, folks who have returned home after a broken hip and extensive physical rehabilitation, or people who have always lived alone and can't imagine any other way.

Anyone who has worshipped in an Anglican or Episcopal parish in the global Anglosphere for a year has met a dozen of these persons who walk through prayer lists in the weekly intercessions and sometimes move to the list of the faithful departed. They were the spiritual leaders of our communities in the second half of the twentieth century, and the world today is difficult for some of them to recognize. Still and all: they believe, they worship, they attend, and they know themselves however reduced or forgotten or swept aside to be the manful children of a good God.

We have learned of late that the women of our parish have self-organized to care for our friends who are writing this latter chapter of their lives.

When Margaret returned home after a hip fracture—her children dispersed throughout the continent—the invisible group of five determined that Claire would call her once a day to check in.

When George was widowed after a marriage of almost sixty years, they decided that Nadia would text him every afternoon (he is a keen iPhone user) to see how he was doing.

When the widow Ruth slipped on ice while clearing her own driveway, the Five assigned Grace to call her each evening at dinner time for a chat on the handset.

They are the decent, daily acts of persons who care for one another selflessly, but also with the knowledge that each of us will some day walk the paths of growing loneliness and physical decline. Maugre the simplicity of it all and the small amounts of time it takes to carry out, it does need organisation and coordination. And the able elderly are more than ever poised to reap benefits of digital connectivity they have often acquired to learn about the lives of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

We have come to believe that this is a necessary and important development of a pastoral gerontology in a digital world. The daily contact matters for persons who fall, who are alone anew, who have been alone for decades, whose genetic families often do not live nearby, who even when active and healthy measure their remaining lives in months or years but no longer decades. It is the carrying out of the collect we all know and pray each night but often fail to know how to enact:

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give thine angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for thy love's sake. Amen.

We are the watchers with the Lord and for our friends. This is our work to do.

See you next week.

Our Signatures

Richard Mammana

All of us at Anglicans Online

4 September 2016

A thin blue line
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