The report, released on 7 December, found that churches across Scotland have delivered 212,214 individual acts of support with the help of more than 3,000 volunteers. Church-led projects in over 180 locations, from the Highlands to the Borders, were able to reach the most vulnerable and isolated in their communities. Produced by the Evangelical Alliance in partnership with Serve Scotland to submit to the Scottish Government, the report surveyed projects across Scotland between May 2020 and July 2020 with the aim of understanding how churches were responding to the pandemic.
Kieran Turner, public policy officer for the Evangelical Alliance in Scotland, says, “2020 has been a year of disruption for all of us and churches, like many other essential services, have had to adapt. This report has highlighted the significant impact churches up and down the country have had in supporting the most vulnerable in society.”
Turner continues, “Churches have re-purposed existing services, and staff and volunteers have quickly been redeployed. New projects have been set up to deliver food, phone the elderly and isolated, support those homeless or claiming asylum, and connect with children and young people who were struggling with their mental health. For many, these services were literally a lifeline – often the only contact in a day when all other normal support networks and buildings were closed.”
The diversity of the projects, reaching across the breadth of Scotland and across denominations, working in partnership with a number charities including Glasgow City Mission, Christians Against Poverty (CAP) Scotland, and Bethany Christian Trust, is a testament to the unity of the church, and indeed the country, during these turbulent times.
More than two-thirds of the projects were identified to have been delivered in partnership with other groups during this time; supermarkets, community councils, businesses, NHS boards, housing associations, voluntary support groups and foodbanks have all worked with churches in projects to support the most vulnerable during the lockdown period.
Additionally, 11 local authorities were identified, sometimes by multiple projects, as providing emergency funding for weekly support costs. The partnerships formed between churches, organisations and local authorities during lockdown are a testament to the unity of the church, and indeed the nation, during these turbulent times.
This report is encouraging news for the church in the UK. Not only does it serve as a reminder of the dynamic potential, generosity and responsibility of the church to the most vulnerable in society; it also serves as one incredible story of hope. While 2020 has been a year of disruption and darkness for so many, this report demonstrates that while our buildings were closed, the church was very much still open and providing hope and light in our communities.