Malcolm Lisle from Sheffield comments on the UK’s lonely society and the need for Christian community – for everyone, celibates included.

The Beatles wrote a song entitled ‘All The Lonely People’:

Eleanor Rigby died in the church
And was buried alone with her name
Nobody came.

Father McKenzie wiping the dirt
From his hands as he walks from the grave.
No one was saved.

 All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

When I was a nurse I looked after an old lady who was very distressed because she had no surviving relatives. I said that I felt sorry for her and I would certainly notice when she wasn’t there anymore. But that is as much as a nurse is allowed to feel. We shouldn’t be callous. It is acceptable to feel sadness when a patient has died but running a busy hospital has to carry on and you can’t worry about it too much or you would be unable to do the job. Just imagine what it must feel like to come to the end or your life, and your only friend is a nursing assistant who is trying not to get too emotionally involved.

There are a lot of lonely people in the world today. I was walking down the street in Leeds when a woman asked to borrow my phone to call a taxi. She was a prostitute. I began to realise that the people she was calling weren’t professional taxi drivers. They were customers, who were simply willing to give her a lift in their cars, anywhere she wanted to go. You might move a long way from your family in order to find work. A prostitute might be your only friend.

In Christian community, the members of the church household become your family. I now have lots of children, lots of brothers, lots of sisters and a grandmother, even though my natural grandparents are now dead. It’s good to be with a church family for a long time so that you can watch the children grow up. The celibate needs community, to substitute for not having their own family. But isn’t it a good idea for everybody?

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