THE former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has urged the public to “give generously” as a digital-only Christian Aid Week begins. All the funds raised this year will be used to help poorer communities around the world to tackle the coronavirus.
Mr Brown said: “Christian Aid Week this year will focus on the needs of those who have been hardest hit by the coronavirus in the poorest countries with the least-developed health systems, often with no social protection whatsoever.”
The week, which begins on 10 May, has traditionally involved door-to-door collecting, special collections at church services, book sales, coffee mornings, and other fund-raising events. The pandemic and lockdown has put paid to these.
Tuesday was International Workers’ Memorial Day, and many chose to use it to honour and remember the NHS staff and other frontline workers who have lost their lives during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In a statement issued with the Trades Union Congress, on Tuesday, the Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, said that it was “essential” that frontline workers be given the right personal protection equipment (PPE). “Workers should not be sent into danger without the correct PPE,” he said.
Data suggests that people from ethnic-minority backgrounds are disproportionately represented among victims of the coronavirus. Analysis of NHS England data shows that 23 in every 100,000 white people have died from Covid-19, compared with 27 in 100,000 for Asian Britons, and 43 for black people. When only those from Caribbean backgrounds are included, the figure rises to 70.
The Government has launched an inquiry into the reasons for this, but it has been criticised by some Muslim groups for including in the team Trevor Phillips, the former head of the Equality and Human Rights Commission. Mr Philips was suspended from the Labour Party last month over allegations that he had made Islamophobic remarks.
A vicar who was due to retire later this year has become another victim of the virus. The Revd Peter Holmes, 65, had been Vicar of St Peter’s, Norbiton, in south London, since 1993.
An asthma-sufferer, he had been self-isolating since the lockdown began, but had to be hospitalised at the start of the month after contracting Covid-19. He died on Saturday, after spending some time on a ventilator in intensive care.
The charity Samaritan’s Purse has stockpiled £194,000-worth of PPE kits, which it plans to give away to faith and charity workers and others assisting the vulnerable during the pandemic.
Along with the PPE, the charity — which is currently operating coronavirus field hospitals in Italy and New York (News, 3 April) — is also offering grants of up to £5000 to resource churches and charities working through the lockdown.
Choral scholars from St Martin-in-the-Fields, in London, and Andrew Earis, director of music, Cathy Martin, music programme manager, and Gabriella Noble, choral-conducting fellow, are seen during a recording on Zoom. They are recording church music for use in live-streamed services. A selection of up to five pieces is available every Thursday evening for use by other churches at churchnearyou.com/hub
Numerous other smaller-scale relief efforts are being undertaken by Christian groups and churches across the country.
The Bishop of Carlisle, the Rt Revd James Newcome, who is the lead bishop on healthcare, has praised the resourcefulness and generosity of volunteers across his diocese who have been making scrubs for NHS staff.
Among those who have taken part is the Rector of the United Benefice of Harrington and Distington, in Cumbria, the Revd Julia Powley, who has been sewing scrubs bags and also making face masks at home. “This has been a practical way in which I can give something back to our NHS,” she said.
A group of English Roman Catholic seminarians who had to leave their college in Spain and return home because of the coronavirus are raising money for the aid agency CAFOD by walking 2.6 miles each. Donations can be made at justgiving.com/fundraising/rec-valladolid-s-2-6-challenge.
In the diocese of Manchester, one parish has become a hub for food-parcel distribution. The Team Rector of Gorton and Abbey Hey, the Revd Craig Smith, has been collecting food dropped off at the rectory and delivering it to parishioners who are self-isolating.
Similar initiatives have sprung up across the country. In Fareham, near Portsmouth, worshippers from the two parish churches have helped to deliver food to needy pupils who would normally rely on free school meals. The group has now also started delivering learning packs to those who cannot attend school.
“We have been absolutely overwhelmed by the support of the local church through this difficult time,” the head teacher of St Columba’s C of E Primary Academy, Tracey Marsh, said.