Results from a major survey assessing responses to the Covid-19 crisis among Catholics in the UK reveals the experience of both clergy and laity during the pandemic. Over 2,500 Catholics (between 19th May and the 26th July) were surveyed about their experiences and attitudes towards lockdown.
The survey aimed to ask participants not just what they did but also what they felt about the experience of lockdown, and what they thought the future might hold. How well did people cope with the pandemic? Did it strengthen or weaken their faith? How was it for clergy and lay leaders trying to work in this new environment? How have those receiving ministry found this novel experience? Will virtual ministry become part of the post-pandemic landscape, and will this be a good move for churches? Among its most significant findings:
Of those polled 93% accessed Church services online during COVID19. This high figure naturally reflects the fact that this was an online survey circulated directly by Bishops, clergy, religious orders, lay and diocesan networks.
While there was a high level of engagement and appreciation of online worship (66%) the results suggest that there is little danger of a mass exodus to the virtual world, with only 4% thinking they would worship mainly or entirely online in the future.
A majority (61%) felt that closing church buildings during the lockdown was the right decision.
80% think that church buildings are central to faith witness in the community and 84% disagreed with the suggestion that church buildings are an unnecessary burden and expense.
82% of Catholics thought that the NHS had responded well to the crisis, whilst just over half of Catholics felt that their church at a national level had responded well (53%) and only about a fifth (22%) of people agreed that the Government led the nation well during the lockdown.
Many Catholics polled (63%) had had some contact with clergy or a lay representative during lockdown ranging from pastoral support, practical help, prayer, church admin, or just checking up.
Catholics surveyed said that lockdown had helped them to feel closer to God (50%) and more prayerful (54%).
The findings suggest that the experience of Catholics differs from the speculation in some quarters that British Christians as a whole enthusiastically celebrate the replacement of the activities of the Church with online provision. Catholics miss their churches. In particular it seems that younger Catholics were more likely to be opposed to lockdown and felt more strongly about the importance of church buildings than did older people who were surveyed.
Professor Francis Davis, University of Birmingham and Oxford, said: "It has been a pleasure to work with Catholic Voices to undertake what may be one of the biggest surveys ever undertaken of the Catholic community in England and Wales. We wanted to find out how Catholics had been coping and what impact the crisis has had on people's faith and their attitudes towards the Church. I am convinced that the report and its findings will be a vital resource in the discussions about the future of the Church in England and Wales."
Brenden Thompson, CEO Catholic Voices, said: "I am pleasantly surprised by many of the findings of this survey. Catholics miss their parishes and church buildings and seem eager to return, not just content with 'virtual Church'. Many it seems, by and large, have backed the Bishops, been grateful for the efforts of clergy to livestream, and many have even felt at times closer to God and been more prayerful than usual. That said, the challenges ahead are real, so if we want to capitalise on this goodwill, we need to start thinking seriously about the conversations that need to happen as more and more begin returning to parishes."
Please find the full report here: www.catholicvoices.org.uk/s/Coronavirus-Church-You-Survey-Report.pdf
The survey, which is part of a wider survey of UK Christian responses to the present crisis, was undertaken by Professor Francis Davis (University of Birmingham and Oxford), Professor Andrew Village (York St John University) and Professor Leslie Francis (University of Warwick) who collaborated with Catholic Voices to publicise the survey and produce the report.
Catholic Voices (CV) was created in 2010 at the time of the papal visit to improve the Church's representation in the media, above all in news programs and debates. Since then 20 CV groups have started in different countries in Europe, the Americas and Australia.
Read more about Catholic Voices here: www.catholicvoices.org.uk
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