In those parishes that have actively sought new ventures and parishioners, the Church of England is prospering. In Rural Ainsty, a country parish in North Yorkshire, the Reverend Richard Battersby says, ‘We have a thriving Sunday morning worship – as many and more as before lockdown. I pray with more parishioners in the morning and evening than ever before.’
Where, previously, he took separate services in four villages, they now worship together online, with Zoom services unifying the different churches. ‘They’d never worshipped together before,’ says Battersby. ‘Faith has been made more intense by the pandemic. People on their laptops can actually contribute to the service. Someone from the Congo recently contributed.’
He’s had to deal, too, with coronavirus funerals. ‘We’ve had to come up with ways that families could mourn in the right way. After the first lockdown, we could have a service for those interring ashes, who couldn’t attend a proper funeral during lockdown.’
In Battersby’s parish, the congregation’s contributions have even gone up. He talks about the Church being ‘shocked into new ways of being’ by the pandemic. ‘Churches that explored an online presence have done pretty well and have seen exponential growth,’ he says. ‘Churches that were struggling before have seen an accelerated demise. The willingness of the church leader to adopt new technology from a theological or sacramental point is crucial.’
Can the Church of England survive Covid?
‘We’re deemed non-essential, but that isn’t the case: we’ve served 160,000 meals during the pandemic, compared to 5,000 in the equivalent period before,’ https://t.co/X3pr9t8VCj
— Tim Dieppe (@TDieppe) January 9, 2021