More than seven million people have had contact with their local church for community support services such as food banks, parent toddler groups and lunch clubs, new figures published today suggest.
Polling by Savanta ComRes for the Church of England shows that nearly half the population reports having been in contact with their local church – at 46% – with the most popular reasons for doing so being attending weddings, baptisms, and funerals (50%) worship and services (42%) and carol services (39%).
But the figures also show that 30% of those in contact with their local church – or 13.7% of all UK adults – have done so through community services such as a parent toddler groups, lunch clubs and food banks.
The figures also show that twice as many agree (47%) as disagree (23%) that the local church is an important part of their community and just over a half (52%) agree that the Church is an important part of British society.
The findings come after Church of England statistics from 2019 show its churches running or supporting 35,000 social action projects.
This includes 8,000 food banks and more than 4,000 parent/carer toddler groups. More than 5,000 churches run or support lunch clubs, coffee mornings or similar hospitality for older people.
The Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, who speaks for the bishops in the House of Lords on welfare issues, said: “These figures show the extent to which the Church of England is providing not just spiritual and pastoral support but practical help to communities throughout the country.
“Jesus’s commandment to love your neighbour as yourself is evident in the care and service provided by churches in so many ways.
“The biggest source of practical support provided by Church of England currently is through running or supporting around 8,000 food banks throughout the country and many of our churches are now opening up as ‘warm spaces’ through the ‘Warm Welcome’ campaign, as people struggle to pay their energy bills.
“Sadly we anticipate that these services will come under increasing pressure this winter.”