About the project

'Hope' from Peterborough Cathedral's prayer trail.
'Hope' from Peterborough Cathedral's prayer trail. Credit: Terry Harris

The "Where do we go from here? Churches, communities, and buildings during COVID and beyond" project was launched by the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture (University of York) in August 2020. The first survey (September 2020) attracted over 2500 responses which have already helped to shape decision-making and guidance. A second survey in early 2021 captured current developments and needs to support churches in making a major contribution to long-term recovery.

This website hosted the second survey and will present the research and findings of the project.

Project aims

  • to map the extensive impact on the wellbeing of communities and individuals of COVID-19 restrictions on church buildings and activities 
  • to identify the many creative responses made by churches to the  challenges of caring for congregations and the wider community
  • to support national and local guidance, decision-making, and planning for recovery 
  • to supply evidence for presentation to Government of the importance of churches and the activities they sustain, to the life and wellbeing of communities across the country
  •  to identify the support needed on the ground if churches are to play a key role in national recovery 

Partners and outcomes

The project is a partnership with the Church of England, Historic England, the Association of English Cathedrals, the National Churches Trust, and the Historic Religious Buildings Alliance. The findings which have emerged from the many hundreds of responses from church members and the general public have already had a very practical impact, helping both to shape decision-making and guidance at national and local level, and to disseminate creative responses to the challenges of COVID-19. 

Data gathered through the new survey will further help churches and communities to respond, not only to the remaining time of lockdown and restrictions, but also to the long-term demands of rebuilding and recovery in the months and years to come.  This is why hearing from those who use churches (for any reason, and from any background) about their experiences of this period is vital. COVID-19 has brought great loss and grief; it has also stimulated great creativity, resilience, and mutual care. Sharing first-hand experience can help churches to learn collectively how all communities can be better served going forward.

Part of the role of this project is to share more widely the very valuable research and reports carried out by others. Click on the links below to learn more about the work of our partners, the interaction of churches and communities, the impact of COVID-19, and lessons already learned.

  • National Churches Trust "House of Good" 2020 Report (PDF)
    Using methodologies and analysis consistent with HM Treasury’s Green Book valuation methods, this research quantified the market and non-market value of the welfare and wellbeing created by church buildings. Their key finding was the overall social and economic value of church buildings is at least £12.4 billion annually.
  • National Churches Trust "State of the Churches: The Impact of COVID-19" 2020 Report (PDF)
    The importance of churches and chapels during the COVID-19 lockdown and beyond is examined in an in-depth online survey ' of over 500 UK churches carried out in May 2020. The survey details some of the help churches have provided to the community during the lockdown and shows that three-quarters of churches (75%) agree that the closing of their building during COVID-19 lockdown 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.
  • Arthur Rank Centre and University of Exeter "COVID-19, Christian Faith and Wellbeing" Study
    During August and September 2020, this study examined if and how communities of the Christian faith transitioned to new forms of engagement and worship during lockdown, identified preferred means of engagement and connection and the general effects of the COVID-19 crisis on Christian faith communities across the country. One key finding was that half of those who took part in the research have been live streaming services or using Zoom to worship, with 95% previously attending in person.
  • All Party Parliamentary Group on Faith and Society "Keeping the Faith: Partnerships between faith groups and local authorities during and beyond the pandemic" Report (PDF)
    Published in November 2020, this report noted eported that local councils' understanding and links with places of worship and faith groups has increased substantially during the pandemic, and that the imperative of providing support to vulnerable families has overcome decades of wariness.
  • Co-Op Funeralcare "Nation in Mourning" Report (PDF)
    Conducted in May 2020, this research revealed the devasting impact the 2020 lockdown has had on the nation’s ability to grieve, warning that the nation could be heading out of lockdown and into a grief pandemic including an estimated 9.7 million people unable to attend the funeral of a loved one by that stage in the pandemic.
  • Cruse Bereavement Care "Compassionate Communities for Exceptional Circumstances" Report (PDF)
    Based on the diaries of those working with the bereaved during the pandemic, this report outlines some of the unique experiences and needs of bereavement support during the COVID-19 era.
  • Age UK "The Impact of COVID-19 to Date on Older People's Mental and Physical Health" Report (PDF) 
    This survey of over 500 older people in August 2020 found that even while case numbers were dropping, many remained deeply afraid of COVID-19, leading to staying at home, an increase in stres, uncertainty, and isolation, and a loss of the benefits of mobility and socialising.