THE Archbishop of Canterbury has launched a free telephone line, Daily Hope, to give more people access to worship, prayer, and reflections while churches are closed.
Daily Hope has been available since Sunday and runs for 24 hours a day. It provides Church of England prayers, hymns, and reflections for those who dial in. The number is 0800 8048044.
Churches have been providing more services online since public worship was suspended, owing to the coronavirus pandemic (News, 27 March; Online Comment, 18 April). Many older people lack internet access, however: figures published by the Office for National Statistics show that 2.5 million aged 75 or over have never used the internet.
Within 48 hours of its launch, Daily Hope received more than 6000 calls — the equivalent of more than 50,000 minutes. Calls are reported to last for up to 50 minutes at a time.
The Church of England’s Director of Evangelism and Discipleship, Canon Dave Male, said on Tuesday: “The volume of calls over the first two days really shows that Daily Hope is meeting a need. While we all long for the day when we can meet together in person in our churches again, we have a duty in these strange and difficult times to find new ways of bringing prayer and worship to people wherever they are, and this is one more way of helping people to connect with God from their own homes.”
The Church of England is providing the service jointly with the Christian charity Faith in Later Life, which seeks to reach out to older people who are isolated or lonely; and Connections, a regular gathering of older people at Holy Trinity, Claygate, in Surrey, which, before Covid-19, hosted 150 guests each week.
Those who phone Daily Hope will first hear a greeting from Archbishop Welby before being offered a range of prayers, hymns, and liturgy, including the Church of England’s weekly national online service, and advice about the coronavirus.
Archbishop Welby said: “I want to urge people to spread the news about this service. If there is someone you know who is particularly struggling, give them a call and let them know about the Daily Hope. I’m going to phone a friend; will you join me?”
The chief executive of Faith in Later Life, Carl Knightly, said: “We know as an organisation of the challenges for older people in our society in normal times, and these are not those; so I want to add our voice to that of the Archbishop and get people sharing this number with whoever they know who would most benefit.”
The Bishop of Dorking, Dr Jo Bailey Wells, described Daily Hope on Twitter as “a wonderful initiative, especially for those not on the internet”.
The Bishop of Blackburn, the Rt Revd Julian Henderson, also expressed support for the scheme. “This is a wonderful idea to offer music, prayers, and reflections as well as full worship services at the end of a telephone line,” he said. “There has been much made recently about the new levels of interest in the Church and in the Christian faith we are seeing online since the lockdown. This is important of course and should be encouraged. But people who are not able to engage so easily on the internet (many of them in older age groups) will really appreciate the Daily Hope phoneline.”
Churches in Blackburn diocese have set up a similar service in which those without internet access can access services over the phone. The Associate Vicar of St Andrew’s, Leyland, the Revd Dr Duncan Bell, said: “We are aware there is lots of material that we are placing online at present, but we didn’t want to exclude anyone who doesn’t have online access. This was a way that anyone with a phone could continue to join us in worship.”
The Avon and Somerset police and representatives of faith communities have also jointly launched a phoneline offering one-to-one talks with a chaplain for people in Bristol, Somerset, and south Gloucestershire.
The Chaplaincy Development Adviser for Bath & Wells diocese, the Revd Mike Haslam said: “The Listening Chaplaincy creates a safe space for the caller to begin to understand where they are and what the next steps might be. Like the daily hope line, we seek to give comfort and hope.
“We are there for everyone, of all faiths, cultures and spiritualities. We are there for those who are bereaved, or sick, those who are facing the end of their lives, those who are lonely and isolated or overwhelmed by work and care, those who are struggling economically, who are hungry and fearful of the future. What is distinctive about the Listening Chaplaincy is that anyone who calls it, from 8 a.m. to 11 .pm., seven days a week, will immediately be able to speak to a chaplain.”
The lead chaplain for Taunton Team Chaplaincy, the Revd Adrian Prior-Sankey, said: “We are there for anyone who just wants to talk to a human being after weeks of social isolation in lockdown or struggling in the company of just one partner or close family member. Whilst we are not offering to follow up calls made to the service, we will help signpost callers to agencies which can offer specialist support and we will work to link them to a representative of a specific faith if asked to do so.”