Service and sacrifice
In the UK, we have seen this up close (usually as close as the screens in front of us).
Though the pandemic has restricted so many aspects of our lives, local churches have still found plenty of ways to serve their communities. Even though many churches have received less in terms of funding, they have done more in terms of practical help. According to Your Neighbour, during lockdown in the UK, the church has provided at least 5 million meals every month to families in need.
Churches have adjusted to unprecedented circumstances, and have done so with aplomb. Suddenly, the ‘tech person’ at church became the pastor’s best friend (and probably pointed out that this should have been the case all along). A quarter of UK adults say they have watched or listened to a religious service during the pandemic – an astonishing figure.
More than 70 per cent of churches have started new community projects in the last year, many in areas they have never been active in before. Fear has been countered with love; struggle with acts of service and sacrifice; and uncertainty with the sure hope of Christ.
And the UK public have taken notice. New research from Your Neighbour has shown a 20 per cent increase in the number of people believing that local churches have a positive impact on their communities.
But this has been but one small part of the church’s response. Around the world, even more amazing things have been happening.
Knowing the need
Tearfund has been working alongside local churches in some of the world’s poorest places for more than 50 years. We don’t do this simply because we’re a Christian organisation, but because we know that this is one the most effective ways to bring about change.
Churches know the needs of their communities. They are able to mobilise groups of passionate volunteers quickly. And they often have a respected and influential voice in the local area. This has been even more crucial when responding to coronavirus.
Here are some headline figures from Tearfund’s church-led response across 41 countries:
- 1.9 million people directly supported (not including more than 10 million people reached through radio messaging)
- 3,141 hand-washing stations installed
- 97,520 soap and sanitiser products distributed
- £838,569 in cash vouchers provided for struggling families
But statistics like these don’t tell the full story. They don’t show the effort of church volunteers in Colombia, who are waking up at 4am every day to make food parcels for refugee families. They don’t show the gratitude of people who are blind in Malawi, who have received hygiene guidance in Braille from the church. They don’t show the relief of people in India who know that they aren’t alone any more, after church mental health support teams have reached out to help.