**NEW Jan 14th 2021** COVID-19

COVID-19 RELATED ARTICLES

Bishops warn of a ‘divided nation’

The Government should give more financial aid to our poorest communities, as they are suffering disproportionately from the pandemic. Otherwise, it runs the risk in a rise of “disillusion and unrest”.

So warns the Archbishop of York and the Bishops of Manchester and Leeds.

In a recent article jointly published in the Yorkshire Post, the bishops warn of the “terrible double whammy” of poverty and exposure to coronavirus, because “those in more deprived communities, urban and rural, are also most likely to be living in smaller and more cramped homes.”

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Cathedrals battered by the pandemic

Cathedrals have struggled in 2020, as Covid-19 drastically cut visitor numbers, and thus income has plummeted. Numbers of lay staff in cathedrals across the country have been facing possible redundancy, as the financial impact of the pandemic continues to hit.

Westminster Abbey alone is losing 20 per cent of its staff as it faces a “breath-taking” loss of up to £12million next year.

Now 20 other cathedrals have been handed a lifeline by the Government’s £1.57billion Culture Recovery Fund. They include Canterbury, Chichester, Coventry, Derby, Ely, Exeter, Gloucester, Hereford, Leicester, Lincoln, Liverpool, Portsmouth, Salisbury, Southwell Minster, St Albans, Sheffield, Truro, Wells, Winchester and Worcester.

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We must become a ‘simpler, humbler,
bolder Church’ – Archbishops

The momentous events of 2020 will have a “profound effect” on the future of the Church of England and our wider society, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have said.

In a recent joint address to the General Synod, Archbishops Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell said the Church of England must adapt and put its trust in God to become a “simpler, humbler, bolder Church.”

The archbishops’ comments came as they addressed the first online sitting of the General Synod following a legal change to enable it to meet remotely amid the coronavirus restrictions.

They outlined how the coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout are providing the backdrop to huge social changes – here and around the world. 

They also singled out how the Black Lives Matter movement and the publication of the IICSA report on abuse had exposed the Church’s own failings and the need to change.

Archbishop Justin told Synod: “2020 will be a year that registers in memory and in history. It can be compared with 1929, with 1914, with 1989. 

“We are aware that this is a year in which huge changes are happening in our society and consequently in the Church.

“For let us be clear, there is no possibility of changes in society failing to have a profound effect on the shape, calling and experience of mission in the Church.”

Outlining the dramatic events of 2020, he added: “These crises are not signs of the absence of God but calls to recognise the presence of the kingdom and to act in faith and courage, simplifying our life focusing on Jesus Christ, looking outwards to the needy and renewing in our cells our call to wash feet, to serve our society and to be the Church for England.”

Archbishop Stephen went on to outline the work of groups set up to discern how the Church of England might respond and change in light of the recent challenges.

He told Synod: “If we put our trust in God, and if we learn to love one another, then I believe we can become a simpler, humbler, bolder Church, better able to live and share the gospel of Jesus Christ.”

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Visitor and worshipper numbers to England’s
cathedrals grew prior to lockdown 

England’s cathedrals continue to play a huge role in the worship, heritage, and civic life of the country according to the latest figures from the Church of England.

In 2019, 1.3 million people attended services at cathedrals across the country and England’s cathedrals also attracted nearly 10 million visitors a year.

In 2019, a weekly total of 37,300 people attended cathedral services – an increase of 13 per cent from 2009. While Sunday attendance remained stable, attendance at midweek services grew by 35 per cent over the decade.

Christmas and Advent service attendance also rose over the same 10-year period, with 2019 showing record high reported numbers for advent events including carol services, concerts and nativity plays.
In all, cathedrals reported a total of 9.7 million visitors in 2019, just below the highest-ever figure of 10.1 million reported in 2018.

Much-needed support grants totalling £17.5 million have so far been received from Government, alongside additional contributions from Charities and the Church Commissioners in 2020. These have helped cathedrals to cope with the shortfall in visitor numbers caused by measures to minimise the spread of Covid-19.

 Since Covid-19, cathedrals have found new ways to engage worshippers. Every cathedral able to re-open to the public has achieved the Visit Britain’ standard and consumer charter mark ‘Good to Go’ which means visitors can be confident that cathedrals are taking all the necessary steps to help ensure people’s safety.

Meanwhile, across the Church of England, more than 17,000 online services and events have been provided following the introduction of the lockdown and restrictions on public worship in March.

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UK’s leading Christian philanthropy charity
backs government report

Stewardship, the UK’s leading Christian philanthropy charity, has recently backed a report by leading back-bench MP Danny Kruger, calling for a ‘levelling up of our communities’ and a ‘New Deal for Faith Communities’ in the UK.

Commissioned by No 10 Downing Street to bring forward proposals in light of the Covid-19 Pandemic, Danny Kruger consulted Church leaders and leading Christian charities such as Stewardship, the Evangelical Alliance, yourneighbourhood.org and others. 

He has now urged Government and Public Servants to take new opportunities to work with faith communities at the very heart of their local communities.

In his report ‘Levelling Up Our Communities: proposals for a new social covenant’, Mr Kruger reminds Ministers that before the NHS and Welfare State was invented, it was often faith communities, especially the churches, which were at the heart of local health, education and social care, and that they remain key players – but are often widely underused, and valued by the Government.

Now, the MP says that church and faith leaders have made a ‘grand offer’ to work together to raise £500 million over the coming five years, on top of the Church of England’s £900 million already pledged, taking the church investment in the recovery of our nation to £1.4 billion over five years.

Given this ‘grand’ and generous offer, in his report, Mr Kruger calls on the Government to implement a number of radical proposals in the light of the need to re-build society again after the effects of Covid-19. 

His key proposals include:

  • Churches mobilise the congregation’s resources to help resolve one or more besetting local social problems. This may include debt, childcare, personal rehabilitation, rough sleeping etc. and in return, are able to access Government grants and support.
  • A call for greater Private Philanthropy (the MP claims that of those earning over £250,000 a year, 2/3rds do not give to charity).
  • The Government should consider the option of a new, national Civic Crowd-funding programme to tackle local and regional social problems.
  • The Government commit to a new Community Recovery Fund, building on the £750 million given to local authorities to handle Covid-19.
  • Renewing the National Lottery Community Fund.
  • A Volunteer Passport Scheme, matching demand and supply for volunteers in local communities a key
  • A ‘Community Power Act’ to give local people power over the design and delivery of public services, and ‘Pop-up parishes’ with time-limited powers and freedoms to innovate
  • An annual Neighbourhood Day, in the form of a Bank Holiday, celebrating the contribution of charities and voluntary work in the community/nation

Overall, Levelling up our communities: proposals for a new social covenant sets out a vision for a more local, more human, less bureaucratic, less centralised society in which people are supported and empowered to play an active role in their neighbourhoods.

Stewart McCulloch, CEO of Stewardship, who has been working with Mr Kruger on the report said:

“The role of communities, civil society and the Church is essential in creating a better society ahead as this storm passes. There is a Tsunami of need for practical help and Gospel hope that is only just coming into view.

“The Church must step forward to aid the poor, the vulnerable and the anxious at this historic time. Danny’s report sets out a national manifesto for community led recovery; our job is now to equip the church to rise to this historic set of challenges and opportunities and we are ready and committed to doing so.”

More at: https://www.dannykruger.org.uk/communities-report

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Where do we go from here?

Lester Amann considers the visit of the Wise Men

Perhaps this was a question the Wise Men asked after seeing the infant Jesus. They had come from a distant land to Jerusalem. They had followed a star and expected to see a royal child. Now in Bethlehem, they saw things differently. No doubt, Mary and Joseph shared with these men their recent experiences and knew God was with them. Now the Magi had to have eyes of faith to recognise that this child was God in the flesh.

On 6th January many churches celebrated Epiphany. On this day we remember the Eastern Men bringing their gifts to Jesus. The word ‘epiphany’ describes their ‘revelation’ or ‘insight’ that this was no ordinary baby. Who could they tell? Not King Herod. They had a dream warning them to return home a different way.

Their return to familiar surroundings was going to be different. They couldn’t be silent about what they had experienced. Their lives were now changed. On returning home they faced new circumstances and challenges.

Doesn’t this sound a bit familiar to us today? The Covid-19 pandemic has affected all of us in one way or another. Where do we go from here? We have celebrated our Lord’s birth, but now we are returning to our previous activities. The festive break is over, and we are returning to changed, very difficult circumstances.

We go into a New Year that is so different from this time last year. While we might be downcast with all the upsets around us, there is one thing that has not changed.

It is almighty God! He is our rock. We can look to Him in this world of confusion and uncertainty. Perhaps, from now on, we shall be worshipping and serving Him in different ways. So, with the challenges that lie ahead, let’s continually seek His guidance.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding….and He will make your paths straight. (Proverbs 3:5-6)    

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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

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