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Church targets loneliness with outreach project in Sittingbourne

A church is hoping to tackle loneliness with a new outreach project which is the first of its kind in the county.

The Bishop of Dover, The Rt Rev Trevor Willmottcor officially opened St Michael’s Church in Sittingbourne as a Place of Welcome.

The national initiative aims to open up different venues around the country to enable people to meet others and socialise, as well as getting involved in activities they enjoy.

The church is aiming to tackle loneliness with its pioneering project
The church is aiming to tackle loneliness with its pioneering project

The project has been led by Rev Lesley Jones, team vicar at the High Street church, who asked people about the issues affecting them.

“What we heard, and continue to hear, is just how many people feel disconnected, isolated, and very much alone,” she said. “This is happening at all ages and stages of life, from young parents through to widows and widowers.

“To open as a Place of Welcome is to say that everyone is welcome here, no matter whether they have faith or not, anyone can come in for refreshments, support, and a listening ear.”

The church will be open each Wednesday between 11am and 1pm, with extra times being arranged depending on availability of church wardens and members. This is the first Place of Welcome in Kent.

Rev Jones added: “We’re very fortunate at St Michael’s, because we are right on the High Street, so it’s a good location for people to come in and meet people. It will be open whenever we can open the church, we need to respond to what people want. The Wednesday openings between 11am and 1pm will be a minimum.”

The official opening on Wednesday was attended by Cllr Colin Prescott, mayor of Swale, and representatives from charities including Joining Hands Joining Hearts, Diversity House, and Swale Action to End Domestic Abuse (SATEDA).

James Henderson, said: “Our aim is to have safe places in every community, where people can connect with one another, feel like they have somewhere to belong, and where they can contribute their skills and talents. Places of Welcome are just one of many good ways that communities are working together to support one another.”

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