Church has grown during coronavirus pandemic
A new report launched today by the Evangelical Alliance has found that 59% of the UK churches surveyed are reporting a marked increase in people interested in finding out more about the Christian faith.
The research, which surveyed almost 700 churches and 196 faith-based organisations, also shows that 70% of church leaders have reported a surge in the number of people who would not normally attend church, now attending during the lockdown.
The report goes on to reveal that 88% 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% are working in partnership with either local authorities, other churches or charities.
Almost half of churches that responded (48%) have also 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. Other activities being done to a lesser degree currently are debt counselling, care foe the homeless, drug and alcohol addiction recovery groups and community toddler groups
The study, which surveyed churches across denominations including the Church of England, Baptist, Elim, Assemblies Of God, Redeemed Christian Church of God, Methodist, New Frontiers, Presbyterian and independents, was conducted by the Evangelical Alliance in partnership with the charity Stewardship and Eido Research.
The increase is also being seen in Norfolk. Rev Paul Wilkinson of The Fountain of Life church in Ashill said, "Fountain of Life has experienced an increase in people accessing Sunday services, online children and youth work and other resources through our website, social media and our YouTube channel. We've also had some positive feedback from people who haven't been able to attend church for health reasons, because of family commitments or for other reasons."
"We've even had a little feedback from overseas that suggests people are watching from other parts of the world. These things have resulted in us launching our first online Alpha course which is due to start on 23rd June. We are really looking forward to meeting people online and to begin helping them to answer some of life's big questions. While this has been a difficult time for so many it's become a really exciting time for the church as we consider our place in society, our future and the new opportunities we're being presented with to share the gospel."
Pastor Jon Norman of SOUL Church, Norwich, confirms, "We've had people tuning in who would never normally come to church. At a time where so many are lonely or anxious, it's a blessing to be able to share the love of Jesus and to bring hope to those who are struggling".
Evangelical Alliance UK Director, Peter Lynas says, “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.”
Lynas continues, “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.”
When asked about the economic impact on their churches, leaders reported 31% 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.