Coronavirus and changing church
New research has given some insight into how churches have responded in the coronavirus crisis
The Changing church - responding to the coronavirus crisis report
has highlighted a range of church concerns, outcomes and practical and prayerful responses of recent months.
The report surveyed churches almost 700 churches and 196 faith-based organisations across denominations including the Church of England, Baptist, Elim, Assemblies Of God, Redeemed Christian Church of God, Methodist, New Frontiers, Presbyterian and independents. It was conducted by the Evangelical Alliance in partnership with the charity Stewardship and Eido Research, and released on Thursday (11 June).
Almost two thirds of UK churches (59 per cent) are reporting a marked increase in people interested in finding out more about the Christian faith, the report found.
In addition 70 per cent of church leaders reported a surge in the number of people who would not normally attend church, now attending during the lockdown.
The report stated that churches across the UK have done ‘a great job’ of bringing their Sunday services online, adding ‘Interestingly churches with larger congregations are far more likely to prerecord their Sunday service and those with smaller congregations seem to prefer to broadcast live.’ Forty-five per cent of church leaders reported that preparing and delivering material for Sunday services is currently taking up most of their time.
The report goes on to reveal that 88 per cent of church leaders have said their churches are working tirelessly to meet the needs of vulnerable people struggling during the coronavirus pandemic. Of these churches, 72 per cent are working in partnership with either local authorities, other churches or charities.
Almost half of churches that responded (48 per cent) have started a new community engagement initiative since the coronavirus outbreak began: most have either started emergency food provision or befriending for the elderly and isolated.
When asked about the economic impact on their churches, leaders reported 31 per cent had used the government furlough scheme and two thirds of churches are concerned about the loss of offering income, with over a quarter concerned about paying staff. Almost all of those surveyed said they were concerned about the long term economic impact on their communities, while 78 per cent highlighted concern about an increase in mental health problems.
Evangelical Alliance UK Director, Peter Lynas said, ‘Since lockdown, we have seen churches across the country adapt to the uncertain environment and speak directly to the fear and anxiety that many people are feeling through the UK. Online services are reporting huge levels of interest and thousands are engaging with church for the first time as a place of hope.’
He added, ‘At the heart of the mission of the church is a desire to serve the marginalised, feed the hungry and be a place of refuge to those who are isolated. Through food banks and many other service provisions, churches are ensuring vulnerable individuals and families across the country receive the help they need.’
In an email to subscribers on Thursday, Gavin Calver, Evangelical Alliance CEO, described the results of the survey as 'both encouraging and exciting'. He wrote, ‘Whilst you’ll also see in the report statistics that highlight some of the challenges both churches and charities are facing – challenges that we are to work together to surmount – the overarching message is that we have shown great agility, creativity, fortitude and faith as the church of God in this time.
'Our church buildings may be shut, but we the church remain open and active. Let us continue to go above and beyond for our communities – there is always more that we can do.'
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