**NEW June 6th 2021** COVID-19


What do you think will happen after Covid?

You can take your choice: a recent survey has found that a third of us think that society may never go back to the old ways,  a third of us think we will go back to exactly as we were before, and a third of us think that we will be keener than ever to stay together.

The Together Coalition, chaired by the Archbishop of Canterbury, has been working for the past year on a piece of research to track just what has happened to communities during lockdown.

The new research has found that “people feel a stronger sense of connection to their neighbours and community. …We found a clear public appetite for a society in which we are more connected to each other, and the community spirit of 2020 is kept alive.”

It also found that around 12.4million people have volunteered during the pandemic, 4.6million of them for the first time.  And 75 per cent of those volunteers would be happy to do so again.


Churches stepped up support for their communities during pandemic

 More than 4,000 Church of England parishes have stepped up their support to local communities in the face of rising levels of poverty, loneliness and isolation since the Covid-19 pandemic, according to new research.

Church volunteers have delivered food, shopped, walked dogs and collected prescriptions this past year, according to a report by the Church of England and Church Urban Fund.

Church volunteers have also done gardening projects, been ‘phone buddies’, aided with job-hunting, and helped people get online, as local people struggled with the social and economic effects of the pandemic.

Despite restrictions on meeting socially, nearly a quarter of churches even started a completely new activity during the pandemic. More than of them adapted two or more of their existing community activities in order to meet local needs.

Overall, 37% of churches reported that they were providing more support to their communities, with this figure rising to 41% in rural areas.

Food provision and pastoral support were by far the biggest area of support provided by churches, with nearly 80% of churches involved in running or supporting a food bank or similar service. Many opened food banks for the first time.

Church leaders reported that isolation, loneliness and mental health difficulties, food poverty, unemployment and debt are more widespread in their communities as a result of the pandemic.

Church buildings, because of their size and ventilation, have been well used for activities from ante natal classes to socially prescribed exercise. In fact, many became ‘symbols of hope’, with flags, posters and artwork as a “form of visual encouragement”.

Church Urban Fund Chief Executive Rachel Whittington said: “2020 was a year like no other, and yet churches across the UK rose … with undeterred compassion, displaying the love in action which lies at the heart of the Christian gospel.”


Keeping faith in the local media

The Revd Peter Crumpler, a Church of England priest in St Albans, Herts, and a former communications director for the CofE, is all for working with our local media.

The vital role played by local newspapers and radio in encouraging greater understanding of faith has been highlighted in a newly-published parliamentary report.

I say Amen to that.

‘Learning to Listen’, produced by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Religion in the Media, praises the positive role played by local and regional media in reporting religion in a “balanced, nuanced and informative way.” It forms part of a wide-ranging review of ‘religious literacy’ across the press and broadcasting.

The report contrasts this sensitive grassroots coverage with the way faith is often reported in the national press.

As someone who trained as a local newspaper reporter and has been involved in working with the media to cover faith issues for more than 45 years, I wholeheartedly agree with the report’s praise.

But from conversations with editors and faith leaders, I know there still exists a divide to be crossed. Often, local journalists are unaware of the rich source of news and feature stories that lie within local faith communities.

And the vicars, pastors, rabbis, imams and other faith leaders are either wary of their local media or are not aware that the local newspaper or radio station would welcome hearing from them.

Where churches and other faith groups have built links with their local media, positive, informed coverage is often achieved.

In the 98-page ‘Learning to Listen’ report, the group of MPs and members of the House of Lords said, “We heard compelling evidence that local media continues to represent religions in a more balanced, nuanced and informative way than national media.

“Reporting on local religious festivals, community events and local charities can represent the lively reality of religious practice and experience in a way that is very difficult for national journalism to achieve.”

The parliamentarians also praised the role of BBC local radio in reporting faith, stating “regional broadcasting has an important role to play in representing everyday belief. It has the capacity to introduce new perspectives at the same time as creating a common narrative. It is an area where religious programming continues to be valued and prioritised.”

The report highlights the Sunday morning faith and ethics-based programmes broadcast by English BBC local radio stations, and comments “when prioritised, good local religious programming can be engaging, interrogative and enjoyable.” It commends especially the role played by the stations in covering faith issues during the pandemic.

But the parliamentary report also spells out the challenges to local reporting. Advertising has been sucked away from regional and local newspapers by the social media giants, and BBC local radio is under pressure as the Corporation’s licence-based funding comes under attack.

In response to these challenges the report concludes, “This loss of local, public interest reporting is deeply worrying. Not only does local journalism play an important social and democratic role, we received compelling evidence that it fulfils a valuable function in representing religion and belief in an accessible and balanced way.”


‘Remember Me’ – St Paul’s launches fundraising campaign for memorial

 St Paul’s Cathedral has launched a campaign in partnership with the Daily Mail to raise £2.3m to build a physical memorial in St Paul’s Cathedral for those who died as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

It will be the first build of its kind at St Paul’s for nearly 150 years and is part of the ‘Remember Me’ project, an online book of remembrance launched last year. More than 7,300 names of those who have died as a result of the pandemic have been entered into the book.

The campaign will install the online memorial book at a permanent site within St Paul’s as well as on the internet. People entering the Cathedral by the new Equal Access Ramp will be able to go through the memorial into a tranquil space and take time to remember the many individuals who have died as a result of the pandemic.

The memorial will be a portico in the North Transept on the site of an earlier porch destroyed by a bomb in 1941. Oliver Caroe, the Cathedral’s Surveyor to the Fabric, who has designed the memorial, lost his mother during the pandemic.


India’s Coronavirus crisis: urgent support needed

All We Can and the Methodist Church in Britain’s joint Emergency Coronavirus Appeal are providing essential support to vulnerable communities in India. 

The country, home to 1.3 billion people, is currently in the grips of a deadly wave of Covid-19. Hospitals are unable to cope with the ever-increasing number of cases,  oxygen supplies are scarce, and the situation threatens to overwhelm the country’s health systems.

Since April 2020, All We Can has supported more than two million people in the pandemic through the Emergency Coronavirus Appeal, and the work of its long-term partners. The Methodist family has also responded to the ongoing pandemic through grants given by the Methodist Church’s World Mission Fund partner church Covid-19 responses.

 If you can help, please go to the Emergency Coronavirus Appeal at https://www.allwecan.org.uk/coronavirus/


How a vicar’s TikTok meant for seven teenagers reached 1.7 million

What began as an amusing way to keep up with the seven teenagers in her congregation is now serious outreach for the Revd Anne Beverley of Christ Church in Wesham, Lancashire.

When the coronavirus pandemic struck, the first lockdown brought with it a need to stay in touch with the teenagers in her congregation, so Revd Anne Beverley filmed on the social media platform, TikTok – but she did not expect what happened next.

In three days, her video on her TikTok account @ChristChurchWesham was seen not just by the seven local teenagers, but by 1.7 million people around the world. 

“We just sat at home watching the numbers go up every time we refreshed our phones,” said Revd Beverley, “it was ridiculous.”

Today, five or six videos are posted each week, which range from dances and singing, to short sermons while walking the dog. 

The church has more than 66,000 followers and receives around a thousand comments and questions about God each week.


Thy Kingdom Come global prayer movement’s plans for 2021

Thy Kingdom Come, the ecumenical prayer movement for evangelisation, uniting Christians in nearly 90% of countries worldwide from the Ascension to Pentecost, will be run differently this year, from the 13th-23rd May.

Thy Kingdom Come – which is led by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and has attracted the support of His Holiness Pope Francis in recent years – will offer a selection of new resources and ways in which worshipping communities can participate – despite ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

New resources for 2021 will include an 11-part family-friendly animation series; video reflections from influential Christian voices such as Bear Grylls, Bishop of Dover Rose Hudson-Wilkin and Archbishop Angaelos, and this year’s Prayer Journal, penned by the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell.

A special video message from Archbishop Justin Welby, who will be on study leave during this year’s 11-day prayer period, will also be shown.

While prayer for evangelisation remains at the heart of Thy Kingdom Come, this year the resources are designed to encourage worshipping communities, families and individuals who may have struggled with the idea of Church at Home.

For families, there is an 11-part children’s video series called Cheeky Pandas – packed with Bible stories, prayers, animation, worship songs and interviews with special guests including Adventurer, Bear Grylls, CBeebies Presenter Gemma Hunt, Revd Nicky Gumbel (HTB and Alpha) and Pastor Agu and Shola (Jesus House) to name a few. The video series (which will be available from early April onwards) can be used as part of church at home, gathered church (online and offline) and in school assemblies. Similar to last year, the series will be the main content in the Family Prayer Adventure Map and App.

For Youth, Thy Kingdom Come are working with the Archbishop of York’s Youth Trust to produce a selection of youth resources including a series of video reflections from young influential Christians such as the current Methodist Youth President – Phoebe Parkin, rapper and author – Guvna B, Worship Leader- Elle Limebear, Spoken Word Artist – Joshua Luke Smith and many more.

Other new resources include the Prayer Journal, written by the Archbishop of York, – aimed at inspiring readers to re-encounter the love and joy found in Jesus Christ and this year’s Novena.

The award-winning Thy Kingdom Come app, available in nine languages, will for the first time, include audio content from 24-7 Prayer’s Lectio 365 with audio reflections from Pete Greig, Archbishop Justin and 24-7 Prayer GB UK Director, Carla Harding.

This year Thy Kingdom Come is also giving away 100,000 copies of the Prayer Journal and Family Prayer Adventure Map to UK churches, as long as P&P is covered.

Emma Buchan, Thy Kingdom Come Project Director, said: “We really want TKC to inspire people in their relationships with Christ, and to resource children and young people in fun, spiritually nourishing ways.

“We hope and pray Pentecost is a time of great joy after what has been such a challenging season.”

Now in its sixth year, Thy Kingdom Come has grown from an initial call to prayer from the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to the Anglican Communion, to a worldwide ecumenical prayer movement.


Visit the C of E online page

There is now a range of digital resources for to you connect with God at this difficult time.  These include:

Time to Pray app (https://www.chpublishing.co.uk/apps/time-to-pray) which is free and has an accompanying daily audio offering on SoundCloud and iTunes.

Mental health reflections (https://www.churchofengland.org/faith-action/mental-health-resources/supporting-good-mental-health)

Tips to tackle isolation (https://www.churchofengland.org/faith-action/mental-health-resources/dealing-loneliness-and-isolation-five-top-tips)

Finally, there are the Church’s smart speaker apps, which provide a range of Christian resources.  https://www.churchofengland.org/our-faith/our-smart-speaker-apps  In March alone, the number of people using the Alexa app rose by more than 70 per cent.

More details at:  https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/church-online