Churches, Covid-19 and Communities

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“Do you know - it really is about buildings. For us, no building: no NHS (GP) surgery. No building: no hospital chapel. No building: no mental health support. No building: no school assemblies; no more gatherings; no more community space being offered.'”

Church Leader (Interview)

The report and findings from The Churches, COVID-19 and Communities research project were published last week. The project was set up to provide detailed data from a wide range of respondents to support national and local policy and decision-making in the face of COVID-19 through:

  • Examining the impact of closing church buildings and restrictions on activities provided or hosted by churches on the lives and wellbeing of individuals and communities
  • Exploring how churches have been able to respond creatively to COVID-19 challenges and adapt to meet new circumstances and needs
  • Assessing the potential of church buildings and networks to support recovery and community resilience in the future
  • Identifying the key resources needed to mobilise these assets fully

Surveys and semi-structured interviews were undertaken from September to December 2020, and from February to March 2021. Over 5,500 people responded to the surveys, providing insights into the impact of lockdowns and other restrictions. 

Clear themes have emerged which are reinforced by conclusions drawn by other researchers in related specialist areas. Among the many recommendations, the report highlights the central role that buildings play in the multi-faceted contribution churches make to society:

“There is an urgent need to acknowledge the significance of places of worship as places of individual and community wellbeing, offering peace and quiet, beauty and inspiration but also sanctuary, solace and comfort, which has been clearly highlighted by the experience of COVID-19. The value of these buildings to local communities also needs to be recognised, not just as sites of shared history and heritage, but also as place within which individual isolation can be combatted and community life can flourish, through social, cultural and artistic events and activities that further enhance wellbeing. Better understanding and communication of these functions to national policy makers, charitable funders, and in some cases, faith groups themselves, will provide a strong foundation for recovery. Failure to understand these values or the needs from which they spring, will not only lead to lost opportunities to sustain these places for the future, but may also have a devastating impact on individual wellbeing, community cohesion and local, regional and national heritage tourism economies at a time when all of these areas need to be rebuilt. In many areas, the loss or closure of church buildings will remove the last public building and community asset from a settlement.”

The report also recommends the need for greater financial support to maintain and adapt church buildings and for improved training and support in partnership working, engagement with communities and Volunteer Management.

To read the executive summary and full report please visit: https://churchesandcovid.org/report

Make It Happen – your help is needed to make the positive changes this report recommends.  Please highlight this report to anyone you think relevant - members of your church and local community, your MP, local decision makers, your Archdeacon, grant giving organisations etc…

If you are making a grant application, you can reference this report as evidence of the value and wide role of church buildings; many grant panels like to see that applicants are aware of the ‘bigger picture’ and they also like a few facts and figures.  You can also reference The House of Good, a report on the economic value of church buildings which was carried out by the National Churches Trust last year - https://www.houseofgood.nationalchurchestrust.org/

To find out more about the Diocesan Church Building Team, please visit their section of the website here.


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Page last updated: 27th April 2021 3:00 PMFirst published on: 27th April 2021
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Ely Diocesan Board of Finance is a company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales with company number 142183, and a charity registered in England and Wales with Charity Number 245456. The registered address is: Diocesan Office, Bishop Woodford House, Barton Road, Ely, Cambridgeshire CB7 4DX. All rights reserved.