Eleanor Rigby

Updated: Nov 13

Ah, look at all the lonely people Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby Picks up the rice in the church where a wedding has been Lives in a dream Waits at the window Wearing the face that she keeps in a jar by the door Who is it for?

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

Father McKenzie Writing the words of a sermon that no one will hear No one comes near Look at him working Darning his socks in the night when there's nobody there What does he care?

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

Ah, look at all the lonely people Ah, look at all the lonely people

Eleanor Rigby Died in the church and was buried along 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 (ah, look at all the lonely people) Where do they all come from? All the lonely people (ah, look at all the lonely people) Where do they all belong?



These are the lyrics to a song you may recognize, Eleanor Rigby.


Eleanor Rigby, (aka All the Lonely People), was released by the Beatles in 1966.



A WORLD-WIDE PROBLEM


In the last decade or so, numerous news articles from around the world have reported on studies indicating just how prevalent loneliness is in many countries. Some governments, including the United Kingdom and Japan, even went so far as to create cabinet-level positions to address the issue.



MY STORY


Loneliness can sneak up on us anytime and anywhere. I know this from personal experience.


It happened to me in March 1984. After serving in the Air Force for a year-and-a-half, including a one-year stint at Altus AFB in Oklahoma, I requested an overseas assignment. My wish was granted, and I received orders sending me to RAF Greenham Common in England.


After arriving at my new base, I experienced the worst bout of loneliness in my life. To make matters worse, I was caught totally off-guard. After all, I was used to being on my own. As I mentioned, by this stage, I had already served 17 months in the military.



LONELY NO MORE


From September 1996 until June 2004, I served as a Director of Christian Outreach at Bethel Lutheran Church here in St. Paul, Minnesota. One of the ministries that we started during my time with Bethel was a support group called Lonely No More. The group meet on a weekly basis for a year or so. Disappointingly, it never take off. Besides myself, there were just two regular attendees: Flo & Bev.


Flo was an unforgettable woman. After the group ended, we kept in touch and got together regularly. I'm glad to say that Flo's difficult life had a happy ending. She was finally reunited and reconciled with her two adult children. Not only so, while on her death-bed, Flo met her ten-year-old granddaughter for the very first time. (Perhaps someday I'll share more about the incredible turn of events which led to the family reunion.)


SUSTAINING GRACE


Loneliness has been on my mind this week because of the Sustaining Grace support group that we started at Our Saviour's in September.


Sustaining Grace was publicized to run for nine weeks. The Thursday morning group met for the ninth time yesterday. The Wednesday evening group will do the same next week.


One of the things that Sustaining Grace has shown me is that people dearly need someone to listen to them. The Wednesday evening group meets for one hour; the time flies by, as the saying goes. Most weeks some of the participants linger, they have more to share and say.



MOTHER TERESA'S INSIGHT

"Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody, I think that is a much greater hunger, a much greater poverty than the person who has nothing to eat."


So declared Mother Teresa, and she's right. I've seen this time and time again in my now twenty-five years of public ministry. (This was also evident during the three years prior when I was a social worker.)



THE GOD-HONEST TRUTH


As I continue think about loneliness, both as a pastor, and personally, two Bible passages come to mind:


"Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me."


David's statement of faith is found in Psalm 27.


David's declaration brings to mind a sad and bitter reality. What should be one of the greatest blessings a person has - their family - often turns out to be a source of frustration, turmoil, and anguish. Because of circumstances and sin, many families have literally been torn apart. I know of cases where parents and children, as well as brothers and sisters, are no longer on speaking terms.


"Though my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will receive me."


David's declaration makes me think of another passage from the Psalms:


"God sets the lonely in families."


This is what the Church is to be.


Sadly, we know that too often we fail to live up to our calling to be a family of faith for the lonely, the hurting, and the broken-hearted. I'm hoping that Our Saviour's can change this. I'm hoping that in 2022 we can start several Friends in Christ groups. I'll be sharing more on this later.



IN THE MEANTIME

I will close this post with a quote from Dorothy Day's autobiography, The Long Loneliness. Day came to realize that all loneliness is ultimately spiritual in nature, the result of our separation from God. Day also came to realize that the only remedy for the long loneliness is found in community.


Day ends her autobiography with these paragraphs:

We were just sitting there talking when Peter Maurin came in.


We were just sitting there talking when lines of people began to form, saying, "We need bread." We could not say, "Go, be thou filled." If there were six small loaves and a few fishes, we had to divide them. There was always bread.


We were just sitting there talking and people moved in on us. Let those who can take it, take it. Some moved out and that made room for more. And somehow the walls expanded.


We were just sitting there talking and someone said, "Let's all go live on a farm."


It was as casual as that, I often think. It just came about. It just happened.


I found myself, a barren woman, the joyful mother of children. It is not easy always to be joyful, to keep in mind the duty of delight.


The most significant thing about The Catholic Worker is poverty, some say.


The most significant thing is community, others say. We are not alone any more.


But the final work is love. At times it has been, in the words of Father Zossima, a harsh and dreadful thing, and our very faith in love has been tried through fire.


We cannot love God unless we love each other, and to love we must know each other. We know Him in the breaking of bread, and we are not alone any more. Heaven is a banquet and life is a banquet, too, even with a crust, where there is companionship.


We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community.


It all happened while we sat there talking, and it is still going on.

Photo by Edu Lauton on Unsplash

111 views5 comments

Recent Posts

See All