Thinking Anglicans

Statistics on ‘Church at Home’

The Church of England has released statistics on remote worship during the March to July 2020 lockdown: Church at Home. There is an accompanying press release, copied below.

Thousands of churches offered remote worship during lockdown, new report finds

Thousands of churches adapted ‘at a moment’s notice’ to providing worship at home from the start of the first lockdown, according to a new report published today.

More than 9,000 churches (78%) offered ‘Church at Home’ online, via email, post and telephone during the March to July 2020 lockdown when collective worship was suspended because of the coronavirus restrictions.

More than 8,000, or 69%, offered livestreamed or pre-recorded services, while more than 5,000, or 44%, offered services downloadable from a website or emailed. More than 4,000, or 33%, offered printed and posted services and more than 2,000, or 21%, provided telephone or dial-in services.

The majority were continuing to offer these services in October last year even though most were also open for in-person collective worship.

The findings, from data gathered from 12,700 Church of England churches, show that rural churches were as successful as urban churches in providing remote worship once the size of parishes’ pre-pandemic congregations was taken into account.

The rise in ‘Church at Home’ services and remote worship came as the Church of England stepped up its programme of training in digital communication for congregations and clergy over 2020 to help churches provide remote worship during the pandemic.

A total of 7,000 people were trained in digital communications, live streaming and running online communities, seven times the figure for the previous year.

Hymns were downloaded more than a million times as part of resource provided by St Martin-in-the-Fields church, working with the Royal School of Church Music (RSCM) and the Church of England. The facility was launched during the lockdown through the A Church Near You Resource Hub website.

Writing in the report, Dr Ken Eames, from the Church of England’s Research and Statistics Unit, said: “It would have been fascinating to have asked people early in 2020 whether they thought the Church of England would be able to switch at a moment’s notice to worshipping online and in other innovative ways; my guess is that the Church of England massively exceeded expectations.”

Welcoming the findings, the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell, said: “I thank God for the work of the churches over the pandemic including the huge effort that was made to provide worship at home.

“This has been a source of comfort and strength to so many people during a very difficult and challenging time.

“It has also meant that many have been able to discover the Christian faith and hear the good news of Jesus Christ for the first time.

“Online services and videos have become part of a toolkit for how churches can offer worship. It is inspiring to see the life of our parishes sustained and revitalised in this way.”

Those providing worship at home include the benefice of Broughton Gifford, Great Chalfield and Holt in Wiltshire, which attracted thousands of viewers to YouTube explanatory ‘Faith in the Village’ videos on Christianity during the lockdown.

Online services broadcast by the group had an ‘attendance’ of up to 400 viewers compared to a maximum congregation size in person of around 120 before the pandemic.

Rector Revd Canon Andrew Evans said: “We had never thought of broadcasting online before the pandemic. We have been thrilled by the results.”

Notes to editors:

  • The ‘Church at Home’ figures detail those services offered online, by phone, post, email, and other means.
  • The ‘Church at Home’ figures do not include the Church of England’s weekly national online service, led by churches across the country, or remote worship provided by cathedrals.
  • There have been more than 75 online services, which have been viewed 14.5 million times across Facebook, YouTube and Instagram.
  • The figures also do not include the Daily Hope phone line, launched during the first lockdown. The service offers a free national telephone line, with music, prayers and reflections as well as full worship services from the Church of England. The phone line has received more than 500,000 calls since it was launched in the first lockdown with more than seven million minutes of listening.
  • More information on the Church of England’s Vision for the 2020s is available on the CofE’s website.
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David Runcorn
David Runcorn
2 years ago

There is so much to be grateful for here. An astonishing range of faithful, imaginative initiatives, creative worship and prayer resources, new skills learned quickly, pastoral supports. And often resulting in the church reaching further into their communities than they were before lockdown. Some will rightly become continue to be part of the work of local churches. Very impressive ministry in response to a sudden multiple overwhelmings and offered under sustained pressure.

Susannah Clark
Reply to  David Runcorn
2 years ago

I agree. While sadly there are sections of community who remain digitally cut off, I think the experience of live-streaming has maybe been a blessing for the elderly, the frail, the bedbound, as well as those who, suffering from depression, can’t face public gatherings and cut themselves off. Yes, of course, this expansion of outreach should only be a part of overall mission in a local community, and yes, some might fear that livestreaming provides individuals with the temptation to abandon face-to-face and watch services in their dressing gowns at home… but rationally, it just seems to make sense to… Read more »

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Susannah Clark
2 years ago

Here in rural Devon zoom and live is already in partnership as a mixed economy. It’s both and.

Tim Chesterton
Reply to  David Runcorn
2 years ago

Here in Edmonton, Alberta, we live in a province with 1/10 of the population of Canada but over 40% of the active Covid-19 cases. We’ve been doing in-person services at the church for some weeks now, under strict government regulation (masks, 1/3 fire code capacity, 2-metre distancing between households etc.), but our in-person attendance is less than 40% of what it was before Covid-19. People aren’t being lazy, they’re just not convinced it’s safe. That being the case, continued livestreaming isn’t optional. It’s one of the ways we love our neighbour as ourselves.

Bernard Silverman
Bernard Silverman
Reply to  Tim Chesterton
2 years ago

Sadly but not surprisingly the quality of live streaming is variable. It’s not at all easy to make a professional job of streaming an actual event… just a fixed camera is of course much better than nothing, but for it to be done in such a way that the people watching really feel involved requires quite a lot more. Both good sound and good camera work, and, if it can be done, discrete zooming/panning, cutting between cameras, etc. Given that, as David and Tim have said, this is likely to be here to stay, perhaps funds that would have been… Read more »

David Runcorn
David Runcorn
Reply to  Bernard Silverman
2 years ago

Bernard Silverman. Yes of course. But the quality of live services/leading/preaching/coffee has always been variable too! And what you ask for has already been happening in many places – training and technical support by individuals in churches or diocesan IT departments, grants for equipment etc. That is part of what I include in my sense of great gratitude.

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