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A letter to anyone thinking about joining Active Listening

A text is 160 characters or less, a tweet is 140 characters or less. The challenge is to describe Active Listening in 150 characters or less.
‘The gentle yet effective act of showing people that they matter by really listening and relevant sign posting. Believing, connecting, transforming.’

AL Sliding ScaleSo you’re thinking of about volunteering for Active Listening but there’s something in the way. How much time will you have to give up? Thankfully, there is an easy answer to this fundamental question. As much or as little as you want. You decide.


People volunteer for Active Listening for many different reasons, but the common denominator is that by giving their time they are helping to improve the lives of some of Northern Irelands most vulnerable people. It can be rewarding and enriching and a way to:

Meet and build relationships with other volunteers;
Use existing skills and learn new skills which could be useful in your career; and
Live out and deepen your faith.

Surprise yourself. Give volunteering a go.

Romans chapter 12 verses 13 – 15  from the New Living Translation (NLT)

13 When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.

14 Bless those who persecute you. Don’t curse them; pray that God will bless them. 15 Be happy with those who are happy, and weep with those who weep.


New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007, 2013 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Extract from Bible Gateway.

Active Listening

Active Listening Volunteers provide a gentle, unassuming presence.
This poem from Christine often portrays our experiences of other peoples pain.

Reaching out

I feel your pain
and long to touch the hurt
and make it melt away.
Yes, I know
that I can’t really see
the breadth
and depth
of this dark valley you’re in.
I can’t truly know
just how sharp the knife is
in your soul –
for it is you in it’s path,
not me.
But I have known other valleys,
and in my heart
still bear knife-wound scars.
Even so,
I would walk your road
and take your pain
if I could.
I cannot,
And yet, perhaps
in some way
I can be a hand to hold
in the darkness.
In some way, try to blunt
the sharpness of pain.
But if not –
it may help a little,
just to know I care

© Christine Rigden 1989

What is Active Listening? 

 Let me tell you a story. Joe is just a normal guy, married with a couple of kids, and with the pressure of the recession, he’s just lost his job. After months of financial issues and stress building and his marriage in difficulty, he’s just heard that he’s about to lose his home. Joe feels that his life is falling apart around him and there is no fight left in him. He stops at the pub on the way home, spends the last of the money in his wallet drowning his sorrows and ends up getting thrown out. As he staggers along the road across a bridge he decides he doesn’t want to face his family. He slumps onto the railings contemplating if he could pluck the final courage to climb over the top.

A police car drives past and one of the officers senses something is not quite right. They pull up close by and gently engage in conversation. During their conversationthey discover Joe’s state of mind and mention the service provided by Active Listening. Joe feels he has nothing to lose by giving it a go. After a long discussion, Joe convinces the Police that he will not cause any harm to himself and they drive him home. After leaving him in the care of his wife, the officer dials the contact number for the local Active Listening Co-ordinator and provides the standard referral information. The following day Joe receives a phone call from the local co-ordinator, who gives Joe a quick explanation of how Active Listening works and what the next step is.

Later that day Joe receives a call from one of two Active Listening volunteers who will meet with him in a local café for a coffee and a chat later in the week. It’s a gentle experience designed to put Joe at ease, to assure him of confidentiality and that he won’t be beaten with a Bible. The Active Listeners gently encourage Joe to talk,and over several meetings Joe begins to open up and share his experiences. Armed with this information, the Active Listeners realise that there are several useful agencies to signpost Joe to, who have good experience with the issues that he is facing and subtly provide the necessary information.

As Active Listeners, our job is not to try and fix people’s problems, our job is to connect with people in local communities who have become isolated and who need support. Our hope is to see the lives of people we meet transformed, as we show faith in action. As Active Listeners we act as conduits for God’s love, praying before and after we meet. From time to time it may be appropriate to pray during our meeting, sometimes overtly, at other times covertly, depending on the specific circumstances. The Police aren’t the only ones who go undercover!