London, England (ANS) – Leaders from across the political spectrum across the UK have commended the efforts made by local British churches to support and care for their communities throughout the pandemic, as a new poll finds perceptions of the role of the Church are improving.
The survey conducted by Savanta ComRes and commissioned in partnership by YourNeighbour and international Christian children’s charity World Vision, found that those who do not identify as Christian were more likely, since the COVID pandemic, to agree with the statement that the UK Church is making a positive difference in the world – 25% today compared with 19% three years ago. More than one in three (36%) of the total UK population agree that Christian churches are making a positive difference in the world.
Pastor Agu Irukwu, Senior Pastor of the London-based Jesus House, church who is supporting the YourNeighbour initiative commented, “Tens of thousands of local churches across the UK have been at the frontline of the community response to the COVID pandemic, and it is encouraging to see that the impact of that work is improving public perceptions of the Church. But there is still a lot of work to be done to fully reveal the pivotal role the Church continues to play in modern society.”
The study, which surveyed 2,170 respondents, also found that 42% of UK adults agree that local Christian churches are making a positive difference in their community with 24% disagreeing. When asked what community needs Christian churches could provide for, events for the elderly and homeless services were selected most often, with both chosen by 1 in 4 UK adults (24%), closely followed by shelter for the homeless (22%) and food/clothes/toy collection and distribution (20%).
UK Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer and the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove have both spoken out in support of the UK Church on the launch of the Give Hope campaign, which has been organised by charity YourNeighbour and supported across the denominations, aiming to profile and resource the work that local churches have been doing to serve their communities during the pandemic. The campaign is aiming to help raise the resources for the continuing work needed to bring practical help and real hope to help those most affected by the crisis.
Sir Keir commented, “I have been struck by how in this time of difficulty for our country, people have sought solace and hope in faith. It has been wonderful to see how churches have adapted to meet the needs of our communities, with countless examples of them stepping up. Now we have the vaccine, it’s a very powerful thing to see churches transforming into vaccine centres, congregations volunteering and leaders offering the hope we need.”
UK Conservative Cabinet Minister, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP said, “The Church has been there for all of us – it’s been burying our dead, it’s been comforting the bereaved, it’s been feeding the poor and it’s been praying for the nation. And now the Church is determined to play a critical, central and important role in building back better and enabling us to come out of this pandemic and to be a stronger and more united nation. I know that there are millions across this country, millions of people whose faith inspires them every day to do more for those around them. Give Hope is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements but also recommit ourselves collectively to doing more for our neighbours and our neighbourhood, for our communities and our country.”
Mark Sheard, CEO of World Vision UK comments, “As a Christian children’s charity that works with thousands of Church leaders across the world we have seen time and again, from responding to the Ebola crisis to supporting children to thrive in over 90 countries, the important and life-changing role the Church plays. Oftentimes this work is done under the radar and those who serve rarely look for the plaudits, but we want to participate in ‘Give Hope’ to thank those who have given so sacrificially – particularly over the past 12 months – and to use our global experience to encourage and enable more churches to respond to the practical needs of their communities.”
With the support of Dame Sarah Mullaly, the Bishop of London; The Rt Revd Paul Butler, the Bishop of Durham; Pastor Agu Irukwu (Jesus House); The Rt Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin, the Bishop of Dover; Nicky Gumbel, the Vicar of Holy Trinity Brompton; Commissioner Anthony Cotterill from the Salvation Army; Gavin Calver from the Evangelical Alliance and other senior church leaders from across the denominations; YourNeighbour is launching a campaign throughout Lent aimed at raising the profile of the work of local churches in their communities across the nation, encouraging support and raising funding for the work of these local community initiatives as they continue to help those who are grieving, suffering and anxious as a result of this crisis over the coming months.
Stewart McCulloch, CEO of Stewardship, partners with YourNeighbour for the Give Hope Campaign, concludes: “Through Give Hope we will celebrate those who have given their time, treasure and talent – particularly the amazingly sacrificial generosity shown by so many over the past 12 months of this crisis – and through this we hope to encourage, equip and enable the growth of the response of local churches to the continuing practical and spiritual needs of their communities as hope dawns for the end of this crisis and a period of healing and recovery ahead.”