A new opinion poll by Savanta ComRes for the National Churches Trust shows what the public think are the most important uses for churches and chapels after the COVID-19 lockdown eases and reveals that half (49%) of the UK's adults agree that churches and chapels should be allowed to open earlier than July, as is currently planned, as long as they can maintain social distancing.
A separate survey conducted by the National Churches Trust shows that three quarters of churches (75%) agree that the closing of their building during COVID-19 lockdown has had a negative effect on the community and almost two thirds (64%) think their buildings will become more important in the future as a result of COVID-19.
nationalchurchestrust · COVID-19 and churches - opinion poll
The National Churches Trust does not advocate the re-opening of churches until public health advice from Government and church authorities says it is safe to do so.
With churches in England currently due to re-open to the public in July and with a small number already open for private prayer in Northern Ireland, the four most important uses for churches and chapels after the coronavirus lockdown ends as found in the Savanta ComRes poll are:
- Providing a place where those who died as a result of the coronavirus can be remembered (46%)
- Providing a place for quiet reflection or private prayer (44%)
- Holding occasions such as weddings, funerals and baptisms (42%)
- Providing community support services (e.g. food banks, youth clubs, and activities for vulnerable people) (39%)
Two in five UK adults who don't consider themselves to belong to any religious groups say that providing a place for remembering where those who died as a result of the coronavirus can be remembered (41%) and providing community support services (41%) will be the top two most important functions for churches and chapels when they re-open after the coronavirus lockdown.
Women are significantly more likely than men to rate each of the following within their top three:
- Providing a place where those who died as a result of the coronavirus can be remembered (49% vs. 43% respectively);
- Providing a place for quiet reflection or private prayer (46% vs. 41% respectively);
- Providing community support services (41% vs. 37% respectively).
When should churches and chapels reopen?
The findings come in a new opinion poll among a nationally representative sample of UK adults by Savanta ComRes for the National Churches Trust which also suggests that the public would back churches and chapels re-opening earlier than currently planned.
At present, the UK Government's COVID-19 recovery strategy states that churches and chapels together with pubs, cinemas, and hairdressers, must stay closed at least until 4 July.
Half (49%) of UK adults agree that churches and chapels should be allowed to re-open sooner than July as long as they can maintain social distancing, while just a third (32%) disagree.
The findings are higher with those who attend church regularly. Two thirds (66%) of UK adults who attend church regularly agree that churches and chapels should be allowed to re-open sooner than July as long as they can maintain social distancing.
Adults in the West Midlands are significantly more likely than most other UK regions and nations to agree that churches and chapels should be allowed to re-open sooner than July as long as they can maintain social distancing (61%).
What do churches say about the future?
The importance of churches during the COVID-19 lockdown and beyond is examined in a separate in-depth online survey 'State of the churches' of over 500 UK churches carried out by the National Churches Trust in May 2020.
The survey's results show that:
- Over two thirds of churches (75%) say that the closing of their church during lockdown has had a negative effect on the community.
- 64% of respondents think churches will become more important in the future as a result of COVID-19.
- Once they are open again, churches are most looking forward to being able to provide togetherness/companionship, closely followed by religious services, being able to gather together in the building again and restarting outreach and community activities.
- Churches have played a major part in helping local people during the COVID-19 lockdown and have set up a wide range of new community support services and forms of worship. The top five new activities are: making contact with isolated or vulnerable people, online worship, telephone befriending, shopping and/or delivery of shopping or essential supplies and online support groups.
Claire Walker, CEO of the National Churches Trust said:
"Many of the UK's churches have been at the forefront of providing help and support during the COVID-19 lockdown. This includes making PPE equipment in church buildings, the delivery of food and medicine to older people and telephone counselling for the isolated and vulnerable. "
"Our Savanta ComRes opinion poll indicates that the public would back moves to open churches and chapels sooner than July, if they are able to maintain social distancing. "
"It also shows that providing a place where those who died as a result of the coronavirus can be remembered is an idea that resonates strongly with the public. This demonstrates the continuing importance of churches for cherishing both local and national memory."
"Reopening churches as soon as it is safe to do so is important for practical matters as well as for spiritual reasons. Locked churches are vulnerable to break-ins, and lead has been stolen from roofs during the lockdown. Churches continue to need to pay their bills, such as insurance premiums, and their income has been severely impacted by the loss of regular Sunday collections. Parish finances are also being jeopardised as churches can no longer rent out meeting rooms and spaces or hold fundraising events."
"Churches are key public buildings and unique in being places of worship, providers of a wide range of community support and a vital part of our history and heritage. As churches prepare to re-open, it is important that both church and state examine how they church buildings can play their part in the rebuilding of our society and be kept open and in good repair for the future."
About the Savanta ComRes poll
Savanta ComRes surveyed 2,085 UK adults online between 22nd and 25th May 2020. Data were weighted to be representative of all UK adults by key demographic characteristics including age, gender, region. Savanta ComRes is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules. A summary is attached and full data tables are available on www.comresglobal.com
About the National Churches Trust survey
The survey of the impact of COVID-19 on churches was undertaken by the National Churches Trust from 01/05/2020-26/05/05/2020. 566 churches took part from around the U.K including those belonging to the Church of England, the Church of Scotland, the Church in Wales and the Methodist, Pentecostal, Roman Catholic and Baptist Church. This survey was conducted online using SurveyMonkey.