On Tuesday, 11 January, more than 80 individuals representing a wide range of church denominations, Christian charities and government came together to discuss ways in which the church and policymakers can work more collaboratively in 2022.

Meetings and particularly events on Zoom can add to pandemic fatigue – but not yesterday. It was great to hear so many church leaders and organisations (including some Evangelical Alliance members) on the call share examples of the different ways they supported the most vulnerable in society to access medical, emotional and practical care during the pandemic.

It was also great to see that government advisers from the Department of Education, Number 10, the Departments for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and Health and Social Care listened so intently and heard about the positive role churches play in local communities. There is a real desire from government officials to engage more with Christian-led initiatives as the country transitions from pandemic through to recovery.

The ChurchWorks commission, established by Your Neighbour, the Good Faith Partnership, and Stewardship and chaired by Rt Rev Paul Butler (bishop of Durham), brings together all major Christian denominations and the government to have strategic conversations about the church’s role in Covid recovery. Peter Lynas (our UK director) and I join 24 other national church leaders to form the commission.

Although the commission’s remit is England, I believe this is a huge opportunity for the UK-wide church to show how the gospel transforms lives and brings hope to communities (mission) while encouraging national and local policymakers to consider the church as a key partner in bringing social transformation (advocacy). When mission activities and Christian activism come together intentionally, I believe it is a powerful witness for Christ.

Government officials and parliamentarians were incredibly thankful for how the church supported the most vulnerable during the pandemic.

During the event, attendees heard from Kemi Badenoch MP (faith minister) and Stephen Timms MP (Labour Party faith envoy). Both presentations recognised and thanked the many ways churches and Christian organisations responded to local need and became a key stakeholder during endless lockdowns.

In the short term, Kemi confirmed the outcome of the New Faith Deal will be announced in the coming weeks and a longer term interest in connecting with different churches and organisations making a positive difference to people’s lives across different policy issues. We will keep members informed of future funding opportunities and/​or meeting opportunities with the faith minister or senior leadership team from the Labour Party.

"We want faith-based organisations to be among the centrepiece of our recovery for this pandemic."
Kemi Badenoch MP
Kemi Badenoch MP for Saffron Walden
Faith minister

Commission speaks out on two core themes

In autumn last year, the commissioners met in the inaugural meeting to identify the core groups most affected by the pandemic and to discuss what the church could do going forward.

Mental health and social isolation were core areas the commission identified, with a particular emphasis on interventions that considered children, young people and people of colour – groups which research showed were disproportionately affected throughout the pandemic.

The summit’s purpose was for the church and policymakers to come together (in three breakout rooms) to share creative ideas and challenges and consider what collaboration could look like going forward. By the end, we agreed to work towards the following:

  • set up a strategic plan for volunteering within the NHS (and social care);
  • convene a working group on family hubs between churches, charities and government;
  • design a national church campaign around mental health and wellbeing; and
  • develop a strategy to promote and renew post-pandemic youth provision.

I will keep members informed of how they can get involved in developing the above workstreams further and future events to attend.