BORIS JOHNSON has acknowledged the part played by churches during the lockdown, in a message to Christians attending the interactive Spring Harvest Home 21 event, which runs from the evening of Easter Day until Easter Thursday.
In a prepared video message, the Prime Minister says: “I want to say a great big thank you, because, over the past year or so, I have seen over and over again the teachings of Jesus Christ brought to life by people like yourselves, men and women, young and old, right across the UK.
“I’ve lost count of the number of church leaders and congregations, from all denominations, that have stepped up to support not only one another but also to support the whole local community, people of all faiths and none.
“For many months, you have been unable to come together for worship and prayer as you would normally do. I know this has been a huge burden for many Christians, but it is a burden you have borne with selfless stoicism, without complaint, and by adapting to online worship and meetings.”
He acknowledges: “While this has not been the Easter any of us would have liked, and Spring Harvest is obviously not happening in its usual bustling way, we’re getting there, and we’re getting there because of people like you.”
The Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, and the Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Ed Davey, have also each recorded a personal message to Christians in the UK.
Phil Loose, the chief executive of Essential Christian, the parent company of Spring Harvest, described the messages as an important moment for the Church. “To have the recognition of the Prime Minister for the work and sacrifice they have made shows how important the Church has become in modern society,” he said.
“We are no longer a peripheral voice but an essential service to those in our communities. Churches up and down the land have responded fast to the needs of the nation to see our society supported and transformed, which is at the very heart of Spring Harvest; equipping the Church for action.
“Now is the time for us, as the Church, to support our nation’s leaders as we work together to renew and to rebuild our communities in the wake of a devastating pandemic.”
The Near Neighbours programme, administered by the Church Urban Fund and prominent in key northern and Midlands towns, as well as in most of London, has won praise for the way in which it has brought people together from religiously and ethnically diverse communities to give help during the pandemic.
The collaboration had been “unprecedented”, the Chief Rabbi, Ephraim Mirvis, said. Projects such as One Voice Blackburn, Dispelling the Myths are working with hard-to-reach groups to dispel misconceptions of the Covid vaccine. A series of videos in English, Urdu, and Punjabi offer information about the vaccination programme which emphasises both its safety and the religious clearance provided by scholars.
“These initiatives have created some unique moments, demonstrating the tangible, life-saving contribution that faith communities are able to make when working together in a common cause,” Rabbi Mirvis said. “I hope these endeavours continue beyond the pandemic, way into the future.”
The director of partnerships for Near Neighbours, Liz Carnellev, said: “We are seeing a snapshot of what the future could look like. A future that sees all faiths working together to support communities hardest to reach and hardest-hit during the pandemic.
“This project sees us leading together, not working from afar: and for that I am truly thankful and hopeful. This ‘coming together’ is providing a space for us all to support each other, and not let the most vulnerable slip through the net — now, and in the future.”