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Coronavirus crisis elicits varied response from churches and faith-based charities

24 April 2020

Initiatives include the delivery of face shields and 200 Easter eggs


Episcopal warning in a photo that has circulated widely on Twitter

Episcopal warning in a photo that has circulated widely on Twitter

CHURCHES, charities, and businesses across the country have been working together to create innovative ways of supporting the NHS, vulnerable people, and mental health during the Covid-19 crisis.

More than 130,000 people have tested positive for the virus in the UK — now in its sixth week of lockdown — although scientists suggest that the lack of testing makes this a conservative figure. Among the more than 600 deaths last week was the atmospheric physicist and climate-change expert Sir John Houghton. He died on Easter Wednesday, aged 88, of suspected Covid-19 (obituary to follow).

On Tuesday, a new Nightingale Hospital was opened in Harrogate by Captain Tom Moore via video link (News, 10 April). Last week, the war veteran completed his target of walking 100 lengths of his 25-metre back garden before his 100th birthday. His efforts have raised almost £27 million for the association of NHS charities. His original fund-raising target was £500,000.

twitterThe Revd Rebecca Sparey-Taylor, an assistant curate in Wrexham, is working with more than 20 volunteers to make and deliver face shields. Her sons, Joseph (13) and Isaac (11), set up a 3D printer and started production. The family now has a pool of 30 printers and is working around the clock

The Archbishop of York, Dr Sentamu, tweeted on Tuesday: “I am delighted that the inspirational Captain Tom Moore will open the new Nightingale Hospital created at the Harrogate Conference Centre later today. Our hopes and prayers are that it will be a place of healing and recovery. Please stay at home, stay safe, look after one another. Every blessing.”

An ordinand in Winchester, Marianne Foster, has set up the Mutual Aid Winchester Facebook group, through which residents can request help, offer their services to people in need, and post information on access to food, medication, and other services. The group has attracted 3000 members in two weeks. People are referred to the group by local authorities.

Ms Foster said: “This is all about community members’ looking out for each other. We want to both help contain the spread of the virus and support those most at risk.”

The Bishop of Southampton, the Rt Revd Debbie Sellin, said: “It gives me great hope to know that people of all faiths and none are joining together in finding new ways of supporting our communities. I am increasingly confident that, when we have got through the worst of this current crisis, our communities will emerge stronger than ever before.”

twitterMore than 200 Easter eggs were delivered to children in the parishes of Cross Green and Richmond Hill who had placed a picture in their window

The Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) has launched an online hub of resources for faith-based charities and churches to support communities during the pandemic. It is also offering grants of up to £10,000 to support smaller charitable organisations. The resources include advice and information about funding, using technology and communications, and fraud prevention.

The RC diocese of Down & Connor, in Northern Ireland, reported this week that its churches had become the target of fraudsters, who were offering to collect church envelopes or demanding cash upfront to shop for people. A spokesperson for the diocese said that parish envelopes were not being collected, and that congregants should remain vigilant and report criminal activity.

The International Fellowship of Evangelical Students (IFES) in Europe has set up the group Community in Crisis to teach church groups how to live stream services and create pre-recorded videos using Facebook Live, Zoom, and other platforms. More than 350 churches have downloaded the resources. The regional training co-ordinator of IFES Europe, Nay Dawson, said: “We, the global Church, need to get clear on our ecclesiology and missiology of Church in a pandemic that actually reflects our values, not just convenience.”

Like many churches and music groups, the Rodolfus Foundation is creating a choral evensong online. The organ voluntary, hymns, and readings have been recorded separately, and include a reading of 1 Samuel by Stephen Fry. For the chosen anthem, “I Was Glad”, by C. H. H. Parry, choirs across the country were invited to record and submit their performances, which were due to be compiled into a single video today. The accompaniment was played by David Goode at Eton College Chapel.

SOPHIE HACKERA cross by the sculptor Sophie Hacker, painted in acrylics with details in ground gold. Representations of the corona­virus emerge from the base

The Taizé Community has given permission for the use of Taizé music, free of charge, in any streamed, podcast, or online services or prayers in the UK and Ireland, until churches reopen. Tracks from other CDs produced by the Ateliers et Presses de Taizé may also be played if the album title is credited at the end of the service. This excludes recordings of songs made by other producers, which may not be used.

St Hilda’s, Cross Green, in Leeds, which serves weekly meals to homeless and vulnerable people, has extended its services to deliver food parcels to the wider community during the pandemic. On Easter Day and Monday, the Priest-in-Charge, the Revd Darren Percival, distributed a donation of more than 200 Easter eggs to homes in which children had put a picture in the window.

“It was wonderful seeing the pictures of eggs and rainbows giving our community a sense of hope in what are difficult times,” he said.

A meal-provision project run by Bestwood Park Church, Nottingham — the Bestop Kitchen, which was forced to close owing to the coronavirus lockdown — is also working with police, council, and community groups to deliver meals to 150 vulnerable people in the area.

The community minister, Chris Easton, said: “We have a very small team preparing and cooking the meals. We have 16 delivery drivers from our community partners; the lunches are delivered twice a week. We started with 51 meals, and last Friday we delivered 122 meals. Once a week we also deliver a bag of ‘surplus’ food to each household receiving a meal.”

A curate at St Margaret’s, Garden Village, and St Mark’s, Caia Park, in Wrexham, the Revd Rebecca Sparey-Taylor, is working with 25 volunteers to make and deliver face shields for the NHS, care homes, GPs, and community nurses across north Wales.

Ms Sparey-Taylor said: “Having started as a family project to make a visor using our own 3D printer, we have now joined with other volunteers across Wrexham to create a 3D printing hub, manufacturing an NHS-design-approved face shield . . . 24 hours a day.” It has had 30 3D printers donated to the hub. “Those built to the NHS approved design are collected by Awyr Las, an NHS charity, and go to Bangor University for sterilisation before being distributed to hospital wards.”

The project has received more than £10,000 in donations. “There’s been an amazing community response with donations of money, printers, laminate pouches, and cakes to cheer up the volunteers. We’re also co-ordinating our efforts with the North Wales Covid Face Shield Group on Facebook to ensure we’re not duplicating orders.”

The clerical outfitters J. Wippell & Co., after closing their retail outlets, have adapted their manufacturing to supply PPE for the NHS. Their staff, working from home, have altered 38,600 face masks and are working on 400 sets of scrubs, a post on its Instagram stated. “This is not the first time the company has adapted its manufacturing capabilities to meet the needs of the country. During the Second World War, the company were contracted to make parachutes rather than cassocks, and signal equipment and parts for torpedoes replaced crosses and chalices.”

Manchester CathedralManchester Cathedral on Thursday of last week

The Bishop of Coventry, Dr Christopher Cocksworth, said that the community response to the pandemic was similar to that experienced during the Second World War, when the city of Coventry and its cathedral were devastated by an air raid.

Dr Cocksworth told Sky News on Wednesday: “In wartime, you have the same sort of experience we’re having today: a deep desire for connectedness, for togetherness; a spirit of help, I would put it, rising in the city, and also a spirit of hope. . .

“Wartime was built over a number of years — this [pandemic] has suddenly hit us. But, even in the short time we had, exactly the same thing [has risen] up: a spirit of help, kindness to each other, reaching out to other people. And also, within it, the spirit of hope. We will come out on the other side, and we will be stronger for it.”

A survey by the Neighbourhood Prayer Network this week suggests that, since the coronavirus lockdown, almost three-quarters (72 per cent) of UK adults are able to identify which of their neighbours are vulnerable. More than one quarter (26 per cent) have checked in on these neighbours in the past two weeks. One in ten people said that they knew their neighbours better than before the outbreak.

Christian Aid furloughs UK staff. On Wednesday, Christian Aid announced its decision to furlough 20 per cent of its UK staff, from 27 April until 30 June, to “ensure that its core international work can continue, and to ensure livelihoods in the long term”. All non-furloughed UK staff have been asked to move to a four-day week, on 80 per cent of their salary, for 12 weeks. The charity is expecting a drop in unrestricted income of £6 million in the current financial year (News, 17 April).

Christian Aid’s chief executive, Amanda Khozi Mukwashi, said: “These have and continue to be hard decisions to make. We must do what is right for the communities we serve, for supporters who walk with us, and for our staff.”

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