Higher Bebington features in national report


More than 4,000 Church of England parishes are estimated to have stepped up their support to local communities in the face of rising levels of poverty, loneliness and isolation during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to new research published today.

A case study on Higher Bebington (pictured below) features in the report

The Church in Action report can be downloaded here. On page 11 there's a case study of Higher Bebington about how every spring, they deliver Easter cards to 7,000 houses in the area  In 2020 they changed their card into an information leaflet, featuring a list of local volunteers who could assist by collecting prescriptions, helping with shopping, dog-walking or simply being a listening ear. Days later, the UK went into its first national lockdown.

The research was carried out with the cooperation of 1023 Church of England clergy who completed the online Church in Action survey in October and November 2020, with support from the Church of England’s Research and Statistics team.

There have been many positive findings

Church volunteers have carried out a range of tasks from food deliveries to shopping, dog walking and collection of prescriptions since the first lockdown, according to a report by the Church of England and Church Urban Fund.

Gardening projects, ‘phone buddies’, job-hunting support, and helping people to get online were among a series of innovative services provided by churches for people suffering from the social and economic effects of the pandemic.

Despite the restrictions which meant projects such as lunch clubs and parent-toddler groups could not meet, nearly a quarter of churches started a completely new activity during the pandemic, and more than half adapted two or more of their existing community activities in order to continue meeting the needs of their local community.

Overall, 37% of churches reported that they were providing more support to their communities with this figure rising to 41% in rural areas.

Food provision and pastoral support were by far the biggest area of support provided by churches, with nearly 80% of churches involved in running or supporting a food bank or other similar services such as food clubs and hot meals. Many opened food banks for the first time in response to the economic fallout of the pandemic.

More than a quarter of churches, or 28%, reported that they were working more closely with local authorities on projects such as emergency food provision.

Church leaders told the survey that social problems such as isolation, loneliness and mental health difficulties, food poverty, unemployment and debt have become much more widespread in their communities as a result of the pandemic, particularly in the most deprived areas.

Churches reported that church buildings, because of their size and ability to be well ventilated, had been used by local communities for activities including medical purposes such as ante natal classes and socially prescribed exercise.

In many cases Church buildings became symbols of hope, the report notes, and were adorned with flags, posters, artwork and even ‘yarnbombing’ as a “form of visual outreach and encouragement” to local communities.

The report highlights examples of the community support provided by churches in the rural Cotswolds, south London, Leicester and in Birkenhead, Merseyside.

These include church services broadcast through a local community radio station in Leicester through to a voucher scheme set up in partnership with the village store in a rural community to help isolated people get the items they needed after the local bus service was stopped.

The Diocese of Chester has been highly active during the pandemic
Many churches and volunteers have been developing new ways to engage and help their local communities. Just last week, the BBC TV programme, Songs of Praise, featured a parish (St Chad's Romiley) from our own diocese which is doing great work delivering food to people. It all began with an idea by Nigel and Rachael Stephens, who wanted to find a way of keeping their youth group connected. You can read the story here. It's just one of many great initiatives that parishes from across our diocese, and indeed, the UK have created to bring food support and faith to where it's needed.

Find out more about the research here


Rev Michael Loach, vicar at Christ Church, Bebington, is pictured with one of his scarecrows from the congregation. Find out more on page 11 of the report.

Page last updated: 4th May 2021 12:16 PM