Only The Lonely Songs of Praise


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Only The Lonely

Aled Jones explores how people are finding ways to cope with loneliness and introduces some heart-warming hymns.


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MUSIC: "Eleanor Rigby" by The Beatles

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Pop songs. Whilst loads of them are about love,

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there are quite a few about the opposite side of the coin - loneliness.

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So, how many can you think of? Roy Orbison's Only The Lonely.

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Bobby Vinton's Mr Lonely.

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If you're younger, the version by Akon, the Streets of London.

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Or Eleanor Rigby with its famous line, "all the lonely people."

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On this week's Songs of Praise, we explore loneliness.

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On today's Songs of Praise -

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most of us experience it, but nobody talks about it.

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Why is loneliness so taboo?

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The charity tackling isolation in Oxfordshire,

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plus some favourite hymns from around the country.

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MUSIC: "Only The Lonely" by Roy Orbison

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There don't seem to be hymns on this jukebox.

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But I have thought of three more songs about loneliness.

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Irving Berlin's You're Lonely And I'm Lonely,

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Hank Williams' I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry

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and of course, Are You Lonesome Tonight.

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But someone was writing songs about loneliness

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long before Irving and Hank.

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David wrote psalms to God in times of isolation.

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Psalm 142 was written when David was hiding in a cave.

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As a fugitive travelling alone, he felt vulnerable.

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"There is no-one at my right hand," he says.

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"No-one is concerned for me."

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He implores God to listen to his cry for he's in desperate need.

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But in his most famous psalm, David is less fearful.

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He describes the Lord as his shepherd.

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The Psalms show us that loneliness isn't a new phenomenon.

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You might be surprised to learn that in this age of 24/7 communication,

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society actually seems to be getting lonelier.

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Statistics point to rising levels of loneliness,

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and not just amongst the elderly.

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A large number of young people feel lonely, too.

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So, why do we feel lonely?

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Is it something we only feel when we're on our own?

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Or is it possible to feel lonely when you are surrounded by people?

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To use that old cliche, can you feel lonely in a crowd?

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Author Simon Parke is content to spend

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most of his time in solitary pursuits, running and writing.

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A bit of a change from his previous careers.

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You've been a vicar, you've worked in a supermarket.

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Both jobs, I would imagine, involve other people being social.

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-And then you go and write a book about solitude.

-Yeah.

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Well, I think in a way, the more active your life,

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the more important it is that you find solitude.

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What's the difference between solitude and loneliness?

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Well, I think loneliness is an unhappy state.

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It's a state of feeling isolated.

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It feels like a punishment.

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Whereas, of course, solitude is like a clearing in a jungle.

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And in this clearing is a sense of peace, harmony,

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happiness with yourself.

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Can you actually feel lonely in a crowd?

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It's strange, isn't it?

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I think a lot of people are lonely in a crowd.

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You know, you hear people saying, "I was at a party last night,

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"but, you know, I just didn't feel I belonged."

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It's hard to believe that loneliness can exist in this 21st century

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when we lead such busy lives.

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-Things happening around us constantly.

-Yeah.

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Perhaps that's why. I mean, I think maybe that is why.

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Because in a way, we're trained, I think we're trained for loneliness.

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You hear of parents... It's an active world,

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so parents think, "If I'm going to be a responsible parent,

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"I must make my children active."

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"So I must take them to football and tae kwon do,"

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and whatever else they take them to and,

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"Let's give them a computer in their bedroom

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so they can distract themselves with that."

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And, of course, so we grow up designed for an active world,

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but, of course, what we're not designed for

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is to face the times when we're alone.

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We have an in-built terror of actually being alone

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because no-one has ever said, "It's OK to be alone."

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I'm imagining a scenario where you end up alone

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and you search deep within yourself

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and you find out that actually you don't like yourself very much

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and you don't like being alone. How do you handle that?

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Yeah. I think that's a very real issue for people.

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And, of course, to be helped with that,

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you need to see that actually that's a message that someone else put inside you.

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So you weren't born thinking that.

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Why would anyone be unhappy about themselves?

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We're born in the image of Christ, in the image of God.

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So perhaps we start by accepting ourselves.

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Allowing ourselves to be as we are, who we are.

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Allowing the whole package.

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And, er... And maybe then,

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you know, the seed beneath the snow.

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The seed of love begins to grow.

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# Some say love, it is a river

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# That drowns the tender reed

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# Some say love, it is a razor

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# That leaves your soul to bleed

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# Some say love, it is a hunger

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# An endless, aching need

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# I say love, it is a flower

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# And you, its only seed

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# It's the heart afraid of breaking

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# That never learns to dance

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# It's the dream afraid of waking

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# That never takes the chance

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# It's the one who won't be taken

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# Who cannot seem to give

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# And the soul afraid of dying

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# That never learns to live

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# When the night has been too lonely

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# And the road has been too long

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# And you think that love is only

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# For the lucky and the strong

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# Just remember in the winter

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# Far beneath the bitter snows

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# Lies the seed that with the sun's love

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# In the spring becomes the rose. #

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Right through the Bible, you'll find people who are lonely.

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I've mentioned David and the Psalms.

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There's also Hagar, cast out into the wilderness

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after conceiving Abraham's child.

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There's Job, lonely in his grief and suffering

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and perhaps even Moses and the loneliness of leadership.

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One of the loneliest pictures is of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane

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that night when all his friends had fallen asleep.

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The long walk to the cross and then that heartfelt cry of,

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"Why have you forsaken me?"

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Many things can cause someone to feel lonely,

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including not finding the right partner to settle down with,

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as Helena Wilkinson discovered.

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I think I've had different times in my life where I've been lonely,

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right through from childhood.

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I was lonely as a young child at times.

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I'm registered partially sighted,

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and that set me apart and made me a bit different.

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Then when I went to boarding school, I was very badly bullied.

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That made me feel incredibly lonely.

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In my 20s, I guess, you know, you're adjusting,

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you're finding your identity,

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you're hoping you're going to find somebody.

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Your friends are just beginning to get married,

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then somebody has the first baby and, "It hasn't happened to me."

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And that's an incredible sense of loneliness sometimes.

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Then you hit your 40s and it's like, "Biological clock now is ticking."

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And, "Is that guy ever really going to come into my life?"

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Do you think we are actually put on this Earth to be with partners?

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I think in many ways, yes, we are made to have a partner.

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Because, you know, male and female are like two halves, aren't they?

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To come together as one whole.

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-You know, when you feel loved, you feel less lonely.

-Yeah.

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I mean, it sounds crazy, you can even feel like that with an animal.

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You feel loved by your dog and you don't feel so lonely.

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When you were single, you were lonely, were you craving marriage?

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Yeah, definitely.

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Because I think for a lot of single people, they see it as the ultimate.

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It's... Everybody longs to be loved, don't they?

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And so I think there are an awful lot of single people out there

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who feel a crushing sense of loneliness

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because they look at other people and they see love.

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They see people holding hands, they see people giving,

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they see flowers being given, they see meals being shared.

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So, how have you coped with that personally?

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I've looked for the right person, I've prayed and...

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At the end of the day, I think as hard as it is, I have to trust God.

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I have to trust that he knows the overall plan for my life.

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Do you think the church and faith communities could do more to help?

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Definitely. We need to actually be reaching out.

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As a single person, perhaps, you go into a church and you look

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and there's families, so-and-so's going home,

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going to have Sunday dinner on the table.

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The parents are going to be there, the children are going to be there.

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And the single person goes home and thinks,

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"Right, OK, beans on toast for me."

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I think if we really lived the Gospel,

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then there would be far less loneliness.

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I gave my life to Jesus when I was 18, nearly 19.

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And at that time, just knew unconditional love

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in a way that I had never known.

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And, of course, that made all the difference.

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You don't feel so lonely

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when you have this awesome sense of God's love.

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It's acceptance, I think.

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The Archway Foundation is a registered charity

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that was founded in Oxford by Paul Hawgood,

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who was working in mental health.

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And, as a Christian, felt that there were many in society

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who were hurting through the pain of loneliness.

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I joined two months after it started as a volunteer.

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I was rereading the Gospels and just being struck by

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the social action message of the Gospel

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and decided I wanted to do something

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that expressed my faith in a practical way.

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We can't fill the gap left by the loss of a loved one,

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nor should we try. But what we can do, and what we do,

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is offer to be alongside people

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whilst they take whatever steps they need to take

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to bring about a change in their situation.

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The Archway Foundation offers people a range of social activities

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and a befriending service for those who find it difficult to get out on their own.

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I've been to Archway since about '94.

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-Did you have a nice holiday?

-Wonderful.

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I got depressed,

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and the social people at the time took me to see Sheila.

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I've lived on my own for quite a while now.

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You do get lonely.

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When I'm here at home, I have the radio on.

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And that's like somebody being around, you know.

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And I walk up and down the road.

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I've been to the shop.

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I go to church on Sundays.

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What sort of people come to Archway?

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Human beings from all walks of life and all situations.

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Sometimes people are lonely because of a change in circumstances.

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A move to a new area, a change of job,

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divorce, bereavement.

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For others, I think it's more...

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It's hard to say - perhaps personality-related loneliness

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because that sounds like you're blaming somebody.

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But none of us can be responsible

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for where we were brought up or how we were brought up,

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and that does have an impact on how we relate to

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and how we attach to other people.

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-Hello.

-Hi.

-You all right?

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-Ready to go?

-Yeah.

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'A person picks me up from Archway.

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'He's like a friend to me, as well as a driver.'

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-What sort of day have you had so far?

-Yeah, all right.

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I enjoy the company, actually.

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The company and meeting people.

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You can start with any number card you want.

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I'm a volunteer at Archways. I love it.

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The great thing is that there's no distinction made

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between the volunteers and the members,

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which I think creates an incredible sense of community.

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And I think it means that it's not a case of

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you come here to serve and they come here to be served,

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it's a case of everyone coming here to be together.

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The Archway Foundation is based on Christian principles,

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but helps people from any background.

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And it's not just aimed at older people either.

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We see people from 18 to 90 plus.

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And catering specifically for those in that younger age group,

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we have a monthly group for people aged 20-40.

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I've been coming to Archway for about eight years.

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It makes a huge difference to my life.

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I have no family here in Oxford.

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So Archway is always a highlight to my week.

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I get to see people that are now friends.

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I'm not so alone any more.

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Loneliness is quite a big issue for me.

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And it also links with depression.

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You can either put the same number or the same colour. So...

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If we don't have human contact, then that does have a negative impact

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on our mental health and wellbeing.

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And there's plenty of research that demonstrates

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the links between social isolation and depression

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will relapse into mental illness and, sadly, lead into suicide.

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I just want to help out in the community.

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Because there are so many individuals like this,

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kind of estranged and alienated from society,

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that need a way back in.

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I think there are many Christians who feel guilty

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if they think they're feeling lonely

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and somehow they shouldn't talk about it.

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But, for me, there are many instances in the Bible

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where people did experience loneliness.

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Certainly Elijah under the broom tree, I think, felt very isolated

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and was probably dealing in essence with the loneliness of leadership.

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And so I could go on.

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In Archway, it's not always what we say, but more about what we do.

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And I suppose the example we have is in Jesus,

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who sometimes came alongside people and spoke to them,

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but at other times, just came alongside them,

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walked with them and met their need with action.

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# When you walk through the storm

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# Hold your head up high

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# And don't be afraid of the dark

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# At the end of the storm

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# Is a golden sky

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# And the sweet silver song of the lark

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# Oooooh

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# Walk on through the wind

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# Walk on through the rain

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# Though your dreams be tossed and blown

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# Walk on

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# Walk on

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# With hope in your heart

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# And you'll never walk alone

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# Walk on

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# Walk on

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# With hope in your heart

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# And you'll never walk alone

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# You'll never walk alone

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# Walk on

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# Never alone. #

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Dear God, from the wasteland of loneliness

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lead me to the oasis of sweet solitude.

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From the emptiness of loneliness,

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lead me to the fullness of belonging in this beautiful world.

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And from the separation of loneliness,

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bring me home to loving and living union with you.

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Amen.

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And that's it for Songs of Praise this week.

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Join us next week when we've got a rather big topic to discuss.

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Can we change the world?

0:33:240:33:27

There'll be a spot of community gardening, some young film-makers

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and why you don't have to be Bill Gates to change people's lives.

0:33:300:33:33

The charity that's starting small, but making a big difference.

0:33:330:33:37

Plus some classic hymns from around the country.

0:33:370:33:40

Join us then.

0:33:400:33:41

Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd

0:33:590:34:02