TEN million people in England have been helped by a church in
their area during the past year, new research for the Church Urban
Fund (CUF) and Theos suggests.
A survey commissioned for the report Good Neighbours: How
churches help communities flourish, by the CUF, and Theos, a
public-theology think tank, found that 51 per cent of the
respondents who had used services such as foodbanks, relationship
support, financial advice, computer access, or youth work, had done
so through a church.
This figure, from a survey of 2024, if applied nationally, would
amount to approximately ten million adults in England who had
either been served by a church in the past year, or knew someone
who had. The figures excluded traditional interaction through
regular services such as baptisms and weddings, or Christmas and
In the foreword to the report, the Archbishop of Canterbury
wrote: "It shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that the Church
is part of the solution for building community blessing at a local
level. The common good of the community, and justice, are
absolutely central to what it means to be a Christian."
Research for the Good Neighbours report suggested that
people aged between 19 and 44 were more likely to use community
services offered by churches than older people. Besides actively
serving deprived parts of England, the report says, churches can
also act as a "social glue", countering isolation and promoting
The author of the report, Paul Bickley, from Theos, said: "Most
people know that churches and other faith-based organisations do a
huge amount in areas of high deprivation, but the nature of
churches' engagement isn't well understood. They do offer material
and practical support, but they also offer relationships and social
con-nection - in a word, neighbourliness."
Good Neighbours also examines 12 case studies of
churches' work in particularly poor areas. One study is of Holy
Trinity, North Ormesby, in Middlesbrough, which hosts a foodbank,
offers financial education, and runs a community café and
after-school club in one of the most deprived parishes in
The Vicar, the Revd Dominic Black, said that his church wanted
to be "a place where life and goodness flows out of all parts of
North Ormesby, creating a community where everyone is able to
flourish and grow".
The executive chairman of the CUF, Canon Paul Hackwood, said:
"Many people wrestle with the problem of poverty in this country,
and I am delighted that this report shows that churches are
providing such a huge and significant part of the answer."
The report concludes that church decline has been exaggerated,
and that churches actively engaged in their communities are
growing. "To follow the lead of our case-study churches, other
congregations must reflect on the finding that one of the most
valuable things they can do is promote neighbourliness," it
Good Neighbours recommends that government agencies
should have greater confidence in churches as partners in the
provision of local services; but it also warns that the Church
cannot simply replace parts of the welfare state that have been
lost to austerity.