Monthly update: Key findings from our Faith COVID Response project

We have consistently fed back to MHCLG that faith communities desire more general guidance that can be applied across different faith practices and places of worship, so we were delighted to see that reflected in the most recent guidance, coming into effect 4th July.

Daniel Singleton, National Executive Director, FaithAction

Over the course of the last four weeks, the FaithAction team have been speaking to you, our members, about your places of worship and how the COVID-19 lockdown has changed the way that you practice your faith, as part of a project FaithAction has been commissioned to complete by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). During our weekly focus groups covering all of the nine major religions, we’ve been hearing about the struggles faith groups have faced with their religious buildings being closed, the innovative ways people have come up with to continue their worship practices and stay connected with their worshipping community, and their thoughts on the guidance issued by the government, both good and bad.

We have been feeding this back to MHCLG, providing them with the information they need to make decisions about how to reopen places of worship through the Places of Worship Taskforce, and shaping the guidance that the government have been issuing to allow you to safely return to worshipping.

One thing that struck us as we’ve been running these focus groups is that despite differences in practice, there are almost always common threads. People have consistently wanted to talk about how much they were missing worshipping as a community; the negative effects of not being able to hold proper burials or support those who’ve been bereaved; how much religious communities are suffering financially at the moment.

We’ve also heard plenty about the good experiences many have had during lockdown. For example, how using online services such as Zoom has proved to be a vital way to keep connected with their communities (and even made their reach wider in many cases!); how this crisis has been an opportunity for them to support their communities; and how their communities have tried to respect the lockdown even at great cost to themselves, because it helps to protect others.

FaithAction have also been running a series of workshops to help faith groups deal with the challenges that the lockdown, and the guidance the government has issued to help us get back to normal, have brought up. We’ve run a Fast Track to Funding workshop, which sold out in record time (so quickly in fact that we decided to run another workshop), to help groups sharpen up their bid writing skills and give them tips and pointers to help them write successful funding applications. We also held a workshop looking at risk assessments after the new government guidance suggested that places of worship should have these in place before reopening, showing examples that other groups have put together and discussing how faith groups should go about assessing their own places of worship.

We’ll be running further workshop over the coming weeks, looking at what the guidance the government issued says and what it means to your place of worship, and working with Strengthening Faith Institutions to highlight what financial support packages may be available for you to access.

We’ve also made some changes to our website. On it, you can find the latest guidance issued by the government, see the latest examples of good practice (including examples of risk assessments that you can use to shape your own), and links to organisations that may be able to help you with your funding situation.

Just because places of worship can start to reopen doesn’t mean that our work ends here. We still want to hear from you. What have your experiences of new guidance been? What innovative ways have you put together to allow your faith groups to worship in the way that you want? What issues do you want us to raise with the government?

We want you involved. To register interest in our focus groups, or to sign up to our mailing list to be notified when we launch our latest workshops, please sign up here.