A new survey has found that 61 per cent of churches across the UK are using their premises to offer a space for people to stay warm this winter.
The research from the Warm Welcome Campaign, which was created in response to the cost of living crisis and high energy bills, also found that 13 per cent of churches are providing a warm space beyond their usual Christmas Day service.
There are currently 1785 church warm spaces available throughout the nation. It amounts to half of those available in the country, as places such as libraries, hair dressers and local authority buildings have also responded to the cost of living crisis with warm spaces.
Rt Rev Paul Butler, Bishop of Durham and chair of the ChurchWorks Commission who launched the Warm Welcome Campaign said: “In the Christmas story we remember that Jesus was born in a primitive shelter and then fled to Egypt as a refugee. His active ministry was amongst the poorest people in society who were often neglected by the rich and powerful. From the founding of the Church, the Christian mission has always put those in need at the centre and, at a time of hopelessness for many, thousands of churches are living this story today by stepping up across the UK to serve people in need and provide a Warm Welcome for those who can’t afford to heat their homes.”
Churches are not only opening their buildings for people to sit in a warm space, but during the festive season, many have offered hot food and drinks, entertainment and someone to talk to as loneliness surges around Christmastime.
Despite their generous offerings, churches aren’t immune to the effects of the cost of living crisis and high energy bills. According to the Warm Spaces Campaign, many will have to spend an extra £2,000 on energy bills.
David Barclay, the Warm Welcome Campaign manager said: “We recognise that many organisations will need additional support in order to offer their community a warm welcome, and we’ve been encouraging those with resources to make them available for this purpose. But the response this Christmas has shown just how strongly Churches want to help the estimated seven million people who will be in fuel poverty this winter, and it gives me great hope.
“The Church is not quitting anytime soon and, in fact, we seem to be ramping up our response, recruiting more volunteers and working harder than ever to offer a lifeline to our communities – even when many locations are struggling with bills themselves.”
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and the Archbishop of Canterbury have applauded the work of the Warm Welcome Campaign, as well as actors such as Kevin Wheatley and Michael Sheen.