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World News

'I will be your torchbearer in government': Faith minister vows to put churches at heart of Covid recovery

by Donna Birrell

The Faith Minister says the government wants faith-based organisations to be at the centre of the country's recovery from the pandemic.  

Speaking at an online summit with leaders from all the major national Church denominations, Kemi Badenoch said she would champion faith groups and public sector bodies working together on helping communities emerge from the difficulties of the last two years. 

“I will be your torchbearer in government, recognising the challenges you all face, and championing your work and the inexhaustible attitude you all showed throughout this most turbulent period in our history….

“We want faith-based organisations to be among the centrepieces of our recovery from this pandemic in the years ahead. But we recognise that will only be possible if we as a government deliver what we are calling a Faith New Deal.  A deal to reset how the public sector engages with our faith organisations. 

“Through the Faith New Deal pilots, we will be backing a number of projects with investment that will help blaze a trail for how the public sector and faith groups can work together towards specific goals.”

The summit was organised by the ChurchWorks Commission which is a project of YourNeighbour - a UK wide church response to Covid-19 working with local churches across the UK to restore hope, renew community and tackle injustice in the wake of the pandemic. It has over 40 denominations and partners who have come together to help the UK respond and recover to Covid-19.  

Dr Russell Rook is Chair of Your Neighbour and has been speaking to Premier about how faith groups are well-placed to make a real difference.

“Our churches have been nothing short of heroic over the last two years, so I’m not surprised that the government, in the same way it has looked to churches to steer the country through the crisis, is looking at the role the churches can play in the recovery.

“It is so encouraging that the churches have played such a great role to date. But now the government is coming to the church to ask us to tell them what is going on and how we can make a difference.

“The government wants us to tell them where they should be putting their resources and energy to help those who most need help.”  

The Labour MP Stephen Timms, who is also a Christian, was at the summit and brought a message of encouragement from the Leader of the Opposition, Sir Keir Starmer: “Having played a vital role in our response to the crisis, we know your services and support will be essential to our national recovery.  The willingness of the mainline denominations to work together as part of the ChurchWorks Commission for Covid Recovery is a further sign of the strategic role that churches play in our national life, and the commitment of churches in our local communities.” 

It's hoped churches and faith groups now engage with their local councillors and MPs about how they would like to be involved in helping the country recover from the pandemic. 

The summit, which was chaired by the Bishop of Durham, the Right Reverend Paul Butler, also included theological reflection by the Revd Dr Sam Wells as well as smaller group discussions on how the church and government can collaborate on COVID recovery.   

The full messages given by both the Faith Minister and the Leader of the Opposition can be found online at https://yourneighbour.org/news/churchworks-summit-minister-says-faith-organisations-to-blaze-a-trail-as-centrepieces-of-national-covid-recovery 
 

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