IF WE have learnt anything since last March, it is that, with Covid-19, nothing stands still. Just when you think you have worked out what is going on, another twist in the tail seems to slide you back to square one. Has lockdown 2021 simply returned us full circle, or are we in a different place now from last March?
Since then, there have been many changes, and we have also learnt a great deal. What is different this time is that vaccines offer a genuine hope that there will be a better future somewhere down the road. So now seems a good time to take stock and look ahead.
Last year, in the first national lockdown, we ran an online survey in the Church of England and other denominations (News, 8 May 2020). The response was spectacular, with more than 10,000 replies. This gave us an important insight into how clergy and lay people were coping with the crisis and online worship; what they thought about the closure of churches; and how things might be for the Church in the future.
We have already reported some of the results, and more are in the pipeline. Now, we would like to invite you to help us to answer some new questions that are emerging in the light of experience.
We would like to get a sense of how clergy and lay people are coping with the current lockdown. Last time, we saw that clergy and younger people seemed to be having the hardest time, but also that different sources of support could help to mitigate the worst effects of lockdown.
Anecdotally, things now seem to be getting really hard: people are stretched tighter than they were before. Is this true, and does support help as well now as it did last year?
The blossoming of different forms of online and socially distanced worship has shown the creativity of churches, but also the variations in how much can be achieved. We would like to make a detailed audit of what has been done, and what those who produce or access services make of them now. Lockdown church life has become more familiar, but have we grown to like it any better?
Our work on personality helped to burst the myth that introverts would love lockdown and extroverts would wither away. That does not seem to be the case; but the picture is complicated, and we would like to gather more data to test out some new ideas.
Finally, we want to know what people think about the future of the Church after the pandemic. We would like to see if opinions have shifted on things such as the fragility of the Church and the future of virtual worship, besides asking about some more general theological issues. Lockdown has made us re-evaluate the part played by holy communion in worship, and some have also wondered about how we can understand God’s part in the pandemic.
The Covid-19 and Church-21 survey is your opportunity to be part of this crucial research project. It will take about 20 minutes of your time, which will enable you to give a thorough picture of your experiences and opinions. Thank you, if you took part last time, and we look forward to seeing what emerges now. Click on the survey link on the Church Times website, scan the QR code, or visit our coronavirus website, to start the survey.
Complete the survey here. Or visit the website, here.
The Revd Andrew Village is Professor of Practical and Empirical Theology, and Canon Leslie J. Francis is Visiting Professor of Theology and Religious Studies, both at York St John University.
The Bishop of Manchester, Dr David Walker, writes:
INDIVIDUALLY, as congregations, and in our wider Christian belonging, we are all being profoundly changed by the experience of living through Covid-19. Stories abound about what has worked well; where people have struggled; and which existing opportunities and challenges have been magnified or brought to the fore by the events of the last year.
The Covid-19 and Church-21 survey is an exercise in going beyond individual accounts of creativity or catastrophe to assess how wide and how deep particular experiences of being part of the Church under Covid restrictions go.
Last summer’s survey provided valuable insights about how Christians and their communities responded to the onset of the pandemic. This new survey, at a time when vaccination is being rolled out rapidly across the UK, provides the first chance to evaluate how we are emerging from the crisis.
It will help people like me, and other church leaders and elected church representatives, at local, regional, and national level, to direct our energy and resources to what it appears God’s Holy Spirit is blessing among us at this time.
Whether or not you took part in the earlier survey, please spare the 20 minutes or so needed to complete this one.