Public back re-opening of churches - poll

St Aidan's Bamburgh(Photo: National Churches Trust)

A new poll has revealed public support for churches opening sooner than the Government's timeline of July 4. 

Half of UK adults (49%) agreed that churches and chapels should be allowed to open their doors to the public sooner than July if they can ensure adequate social distancing, compared to only a third (32%) who disagreed. 

Support rose to two thirds among UK adults who attend church regularly. 

The poll was carried out by Savanta ComRes for the National Churches Trust as the Government comes under increasing pressure to allow churches buildings to open as restrictions in other sectors, like retail, continue to be eased.

Among the churchgoers surveyed, three quarters said that the closure of their buildings during the pandemic had had a negative effect on the community, while nearly two thirds (64%) said they think their buildings will become more important in the future as a result of Covid-19.

When asked why churches should be allowed to open sooner, providing a place to remember those who died from coronavirus topped the list (46%). Even among respondents who do not belong to any religious group, 41% saw this as a reason to open church doors. 

This was followed by the need for a place for private prayer or quiet reflection (44%), ceremonies like weddings, funerals and baptisms (42%), and community support services like food banks and youth clubs (39%). 

Claire Walker, CEO of the National Churches Trust said: "Many of the UK's churches have been at the forefront of providing help and support during the COVID-19 lockdown. This includes making PPE equipment in church buildings, the delivery of food and medicine to older people and telephone counselling for the isolated and vulnerable. 

"Our Savanta ComRes opinion poll indicates that the public would back moves to open churches and chapels sooner than July, if they are able to maintain social distancing. 

"It also shows that providing a place where those who died as a result of the coronavirus can be remembered is an idea that resonates strongly with the public. This demonstrates the continuing importance of churches for cherishing both local and national memory."

She went on to say that there were practical as well as spiritual reasons for opening church buildings sooner as some have suffered lead thefts during the lockdown, while for many, finances have been negatively impacted.

"Locked churches are vulnerable to break-ins, and lead has been stolen from roofs during the lockdown," she said.

"Churches continue to need to pay their bills, such as insurance premiums, and their income has been severely impacted by the loss of regular Sunday collections.

"Parish finances are also being jeopardised as churches can no longer rent out meeting rooms and spaces or hold fundraising events."