THE Covid-19 pandemic has obviously had a profound effect on churches. The lockdown has severely restricted ministry in areas such as pastoral care, fellowship groups, and serving the community. On the other hand, for those with online access, worship has taken on new and creative forms over the past few weeks. Many clergy and ministry teams have risen to the challenge of operating in the virtual environment.
Before the lockdown begins to ease, it seems a good time to assess how churchgoers have responded to the experience, and what they think the future might hold. How well have people coped with the pandemic? Has it strengthened or weakened their faith? How has it been for clergy and ministry teams? How have those receiving ministry found this novel experience? Will virtual ministry become part of the post-pandemic landscape, and is this a good move?
We have developed a survey over the past few weeks in discussion with bishops, clergy, and lay people, which we hope will enable you to record your experience of the pandemic, the ministry that you have given or received, and what you think will happen to churches in a post-pandemic world.
This is an online survey, which, we estimate, will take you about 20 to 30 minutes to complete. It can be done in one go, or returned to within a week. Most of the questions simply require you to tick boxes, although there is an opportunity at the end for you to add your own views.
Besides participating in a valuable piece of research, you will find that the survey gives you an opportunity to reflect on the unique experiences of the past few weeks. Alongside questions about the pandemic and ministry, there are sections that ask about you: these are important, because they will allow us to see how the lockdown is affecting different sorts of people in different contexts.
The survey can be completed on mobile phones, although it might be easier on devices with larger screens such as tablets or computers.
You can access using the following link: tinyurl.com/ycsq9fy2
Please forward this link to other churches and churchgoers. The wider this survey is circulated, the more authenticity it will have. We should have some initial results within a few weeks and will publish them here and more widely.
The Revd Andrew Village is Professor of Practical and Empirical Theology at York St John University. Canon Leslie J. Francis is Professor of Religions and Education at the University of Warwick, and a Visiting Professor at York St John.
The Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, writes:
THE experience of living under the shadow of the coronavirus has already dramatically changed the way in which Christians in Britain and across the globe worship, witness, and live out their faith.
As Bishop of Manchester, I have heard and read many heart-warming stories of local churches and their members. Everywhere, leaders and disciples are both taking on fresh ministries and finding new ways to do familiar things — from the A of advice services to the Z of Zoomed fellowship groups.
I am also aware of those who are struggling spiritually, feeling the loss of churchgoing as a deep bereavement. Many clergy are also undertaking demanding pastoral ministry among the sick and bereaved, in particularly distressing circumstances.
This survey is an attempt to go beyond anecdote and hear the voices of those Christians, in numbers. Respondents will describe the things that they are doing, how and with whom they are undertaking these engagements, and what the experience of both ministry and life under lockdown feels like.
It will capture evidence of both excitement and fears for the future, of where stress levels have changed, and whether personal faith has weakened or grown.
It comes from a research team with whom I have been privileged to work over many years: one that has published widely, on subjects from clergy burnout to the work and witness of cathedrals.
It is a team that holds itself independent of hierarchies and institutions while being deeply committed to the flourishing of God’s people. Through its robust adoption of academically proven research techniques, it provides insight and support to strengthen the work and witness of Christians for contemporary society.
I hope that as many readers of the Church Times as possible will take the time needed to complete and submit this questionnaire.