*** DEBUG END ***

Serious work to be done for church recovery, says University of York report  

21 May 2021


An image used in the report: candles spell out the word ‘hope’ at a vaccine clinic in Salisbury Cathedral

An image used in the report: candles spell out the word ‘hope’ at a vaccine clinic in Salisbury Cathedral

INCREASED need means that churches will have an even bigger job to do as they reopen, says a report, Churches, Covid-19 and Communities, published by the University of York on Monday.

More than 5000 people, comprising non-church members, congregations, and church leaders, took part in surveys and interviews that contributed to the research. It provides testimony and grass-roots data on the human cost of the pandemic, when places of worship were closed and unable to play their usual part as crisis centres and places of comfort in times of national need and anxiety.

The report reveals the extent to which churches and other places of worship are regarded as not just for the faithful, and suggests that existing church networks will be vital in building future resilience.

It shows how churches have demonstrated their presence through foodbanks and other practical help, including, more recently, working with the NHS as vaccination and testing centres.

The leader of the research team, Dr Dee Dyas, said on Monday that non-church members had sent a clear message that they were essential to the community, especially at times of crisis.

“Normally, churches act as a ‘national well-being service’,” she said. “They are vital community hubs, providing cradle-to-grave activities for everyone to access, and are usually key places of comfort and refuge in times of crisis.”

The report found that 75 per cent of non-church members surveyed valued access to churches as a key issue in their community. The same percentage of non-church members valued access to churches as places of quiet reflection and comfort; 87 per cent of churches were shown to have contacted isolated people regularly; and 91 per cent had offered online engagement.

The report draws on evidence from experts in key fields such as bereavement and public health. The head of places-of-worship strategy for Historic England, Diana Evans, said that the report “gives voice to the pain people experienced when places of worship were not open during the pandemic, leaving individuals and communities without access to spaces where they felt safe to mourn, find respite in beauty, and seek peace.

“It also shows the potential of local places of worship for people of all faiths and none as the country moves towards recovery, acting as symbols of their community’s long-term survival while serving as a local hubs for social care, practical support, and companionship.”

The Minister of State for Digital and Culture, Caroline Dinenage, has described the work of places of worship under challenging conditions as “astounding. . . This has highlighted to everyone the continuing value of faith and these unique buildings to our national life.”

The report refers to the conclusion of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Faith and Society’s report, Keeping the Faith, that faith communities were integral to the immediate civil-society response to the pandemic. Local authorities had acknowledged a new appreciation of the agility, flexibility, and professionalism of faith groups in their responses to the pandemic.

As the country faces an epidemic of unresolved and unsupported grief and loss, specialist support and a return to normal society activity will be vital in helping people to move forward, the University of York report concludes.

Dr Dyas emphasised: “Our places of worship have a huge potential to be at the heart of national recovery, but you can’t do community care without a roof on.

“This national network of hubs of community care needs and will reward investment to play its part in these important goals.”

To read the report, visit churchesandcovid.org

Browse Church and Charity jobs on the Church Times jobsite

Forthcoming Events

Green Church Awards

Awards Ceremony: 6 September 2024

Read more details about the awards


Festival of Preaching

15-17 September 2024

The festival moves to Cambridge along with a sparkling selection of expert speakers

tickets available



Festival of Faith and Literature

28 February - 2 March 2025

The festival programme is soon to be announced sign up to our newsletter to stay informed about all festival news.

Festival website


ViSIt our Events page for upcoming and past events 

Welcome to the Church Times


To explore the Church Times website fully, please sign in or subscribe.

Non-subscribers can read four articles for free each month. (You will need to register.)