United by love: church in a time of coronavirus

Working through the local churchCovid19

In the midst of a global pandemic, the church is becoming who she was made to be. Leaving old divisions behind, congregations around the world are rising up as one body to respond to this crisis.

Sunday services look different these days. If you have an internet connection, there’s thousands of church live streams to choose from. No more worries about turning up late, half-way through the first worship song. You can even ‘go to church’ in your pyjamas. 

Thousands more tune in to church across the UK
We may (and should) long for the day we can all meet together again, but the temporary shut down of in-person church services is not all bad. In fact, churches have become more accessible than ever before – and thousands more are attending.

A recent ComRes survey for Tearfund discovered that a quarter of UK adults have watched or listened to a religious service since lockdown. And one in twenty of those people say they have never been to church before. That equates to potentially hundreds of thousands of non-churchgoers across the UK tuning in to services*. Churches have a unique opportunity right now to connect with many who would never normally walk through their doors. 

In this together
At the heart of every church – from Baptist to Anglican to Eastern Orthodox – is the love of Christ. And we are seeing that love put into action in new and extraordinary ways.

A message that has become familiar during the coronavirus pandemic is ‘we’re in this together’. It’s no different for the church, and this crisis has pushed churches to put aside their doctrinal differences and work together to provide practical support for those in need.

A quarter of UK adults have watched or listened to a religious service since lockdown. One in twenty of those people say they have never been to church before.

Churches are busier than ever, with congregations coming together to volunteer in new initiatives – from delivering food packages to checking in on isolated or older people. And as churches unite and engage with their communities on deeper levels, the message of the gospel shines brighter. 

A few weeks ago, over 65 churches across the UK joined together virtually to encourage the nation with a beautiful rendition of the worship song The Blessing. The response from the general public was overwhelmingly positive. The video quickly went viral on multiple social media platforms and was even featured on national television. 

A worldwide response
At Tearfund, the stories coming in from our staff and hundreds of local church partners share one common theme – just as in the UK, churches everywhere are uniting to help the most vulnerable in their communities.  

Tearfund’s model of working with local churches is proving effective in a time of crisis. When businesses and organisations are forced to close their doors, the church remains. Church leaders know the needs of their local community and are able to respond quickly.

‘The church can reach the community in ways other organisations cannot,’ explains Marc Romyr Antoine, who leads Tearfund’s work in Haiti. ‘We can show everyone the strength of the church in difficult times.’

Brazil is another place where Tearfund has been encouraged to see churches working together in response to the pandemic. Tearfund staff in Brazil are now working on creating an online platform where partners, local churches, and individuals can share resources.

‘We have the opportunity to be a witness of unity and kindness. We can demonstrate this with actions, such as distribution of food or [hygiene] kits, and also with words. Many are open to hear the gospel, and above all to receive a message of hope.’

Claudia Moreira, Tearfund’s Country Director for Brazil

Changing attitudes towards the church
In some countries where Christianity is a significant minority, the church is becoming a lifeline for those in urgent need. 

‘There are great opportunities for the relationship between the church and government to be strengthened because governments see and appreciate what churches can offer in terms of the COVID-19 response,’ says Steve Collins who has been overseeing Tearfund’s work in Asia.

A shift has begun. People are facing new challenges and many are becoming more open to faith. These same challenges have pushed the church outside of buildings and into the wider community, where God’s hope is needed more than ever. 

A global prayer to change the world
As local churches around the world work in unity, it’s also a time for the global church to unite in prayer. We all have the amazing gift of being able to pray for our brothers and sisters around the world at any time.

At Tearfund, we believe that prayer can change the world. We depend on prayer to be able to continue our work in some of the most challenging situations. 

‘It is infinitely moving to hear our supporters, who are also afflicted in no small measure, wanting to know how we are doing and how they can pray for us and for those who depend on our work,’ says Emmanual Murangira, Tearfund’s Country Director in Rwanda. ‘We too are praying unceasingly for our supporters that God keeps them safe from this virus.’

Our staff from around the world have joined together to create a special global prayer video, lifting up all those affected by the coronavirus pandemic. We hope this encourages you, and we would love for you to pray alongside us. After all, we’re in this together.

Watch the global prayer video here.

PLEASE PRAY

  • Thank God that churches all over the world are working hard to serve and bless their local communities. Pray that God will give church leaders renewed strength and wisdom.
  • Praise God that many more people in the UK are open to exploring faith and watching online church services. Pray that they will come to know Jesus during this time.
  • Ask for God’s protection over the most vulnerable communities where there is limited access to healthcare, and for an end to this global pandemic.

*Savanta ComRes interviewed 2,101 UK adults aged 18+ online between 24th and 27th April 2020. 24% said they had watched or listened to a religious service since lockdown, and one in twenty of those people said they had never been to church before. That equates to potentially hundreds of thousands of non-churchgoers across the UK tuning in to services, according to Tearfund’s calculations. Data were weighted to be nationally representative of all UK adults by age, gender, region and social grade. Savanta ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.
Agnes McGrane