There is no doubt that the past months have been some of the most tumultuous in living memory. Coronavirus has completely changed the way we live, and the scale of the pandemic has shocked the nation to its core. However, the crisis has also brought forth the very best in human nature, with people looking out for others in ways we have seldom seen before. Now, with the UK coronavirus lockdown approaching 100 days, we thought it would be encouraging to reflect on some of the amazing ways in which the Christian community has responded to the coronavirus crisis.
So, without further ado, here are ten examples of when followers of Jesus responded to the coronavirus crisis with love, care, compassion and an unwavering faith.
1. The 'UK blessing' viral video
In early May, musicians from a diverse group of UK church denominations came together to sing a virtual rendition of popular worship song 'The Blessing'. Organised by worship songwriter and vicar of Gas Street Church, Rev Tim Hughes, the viral video garnered over a million hits in a matter of days. Hughes told Premier: "Basically, we thought, let's call lots of friends, lots of different networks and people and see if everyone can send in someone from their church singing this song and then we edited it all together.
"It was amazing - these are musicians who aren't the most organised! We spoke to them on the Friday and Saturday and everybody had to be in by the Tuesday and everyone got behind it - everybody said yes and it's been a beautiful thing seeing it all come together."
The video now has over 3.3 million views.
2. Online Alpha explosion
Rev Nicky Gumbel's popular 'Alpha Course' experienced a surge in sign-ups over lockdown, with a new virtual adaptation of the course seeing three times the usual number of attendees. Director of communications for Alpha International, Mark Elsdon-Dew, told Premier:
"We've never done alpha online before. And we didn't really think it would work, I suppose. And so it's been a massive surprise that it has. And we haven't had to adapt very much.
"All we've done with the groups is do them on Zoom, instead of sitting there in the church. Everyone seems to be loving them and nobody's dropping out, which is another extraordinary thing."
3. Zoom church
Video conferencing platform 'Zoom' has played host to thousands of church services over the past few months, with congregations across the globe able to hold regular leadership meetings, small groups, quizzes and prayer nights via the magic of modern technology. While this has kept a sense of community and fellowship at this time of increased social isolation, as is always the case with technology, it only works for so long. Churches across the world found this out one Sunday last month when, following excruciating connectivity problems during several services, Zoom was forced to admit that they were suffering from acute technical difficulties. This, in turn, prompted one church leader to send a now-infamous tweet: "Looks like the church broke the internet #zoomdown."
4. 'Praying hands' emojis popping up in windows
At first it was rainbows emerging in windows to show support for NHS staff. Soon, a number of 'praying hands' emojis followed suit, popping up all over the place in Devon. In fact, it was Rediscover Church in Exeter that was encouraging its members to develop their own take on demonstrating their thanks (and prayers) for those on the frontlines. Associate pastor Nigel Williams told Premier:
"I printed mine out and put it in my window and within five minutes I had an Amazon delivery.
"He knocks on the door, puts the parcel on the floor and steps back. I went to get the parcel and he said, 'What are you praying about?'
And I said, 'I'm praying for our nation in this time, believing that God can make a difference'."
"And I said, 'Do you pray?' He said,' I've never prayed in my life'. So I said, 'What would you like me to pray for you about?' And he said, 'Well, I suppose I'd like to make sure that me and my family are safe and well', I said, 'Okay, I'm going to pray for that now'.
"What a wonderful opportunity that would have never happened if we weren't displaying that we're praying people."
5. Drive-in church
The drive-in church may be more synonymous with a US audience, but it somehow found its way across the pond to Cornwall during lockdown. Pastor Matt Timms of Wave House Church had to overcome a few legal hurdles in order to achieve the feat, but he made it happen and the congregation came flocking. Commenting on the local council's reconsidered decision to allow the services after initially ruling them out, Timms told Premier: "I was amazed at the turn around and elated that they granted permission. I see it as miracle and an act of God."
As we mark 100 days of lockdown...here's a quick reminder of how the Church responded. pic.twitter.com/c3gwo5fW3F— Premier Christian News (@PremierNewsDesk) July 1, 2020
6. 'The Portable Priest'
The Rev Pat Allerton, now better known as 'The Portable Priest', made quite a stir after deciding to wander around the streets of his West London parish armed only with a speaker system, a recorded hymn and some timely words of prayer. Allerton's efforts were warmly received by the local community, many of whom have commented on the sense of hope they felt at hearing the wonderful words of "Amazing Grace" echoing down their street.
Allerton told Tatler: "I’m here for everyone, religious or not. I simply want people to know that even in the darkest valley there is light, there is hope and there is a God that’s here to help."
7. Dramatic increase in prayer
Polls commissioned seperately by Christian Aid and Tearfund found that UK believers were praying more during lockdown with one report showing Christians to be fervently praying for an end to coronavirus, while an equal proportion said they had been setting aside time to pray for people working on the frontline and other key workers since the crisis began. According to the Christian Aid poll, since the start of lockdown, a large number of people have also been mindful to pray for those in poverty.
Chine McDonald from Christian Aid said: "At times of crisis like the world is experiencing now, faith can play a key part in helping people to cope with daily realities and pressures. It's great to see that many Brits are praying for our own domestic situations, but also praying for those living in poverty in the UK and around the world."
8. Justin Welby secretly volunteering as a hospital chaplain to comfort Covid-19 patients
Unable to carry out his usual pastoral duties, Most Rev Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury was revealed to have been engaging in clandestine chaplaincy work at St Thomas' hospital. According to a report in the Telegraph, Archbishop Justin made numerous secret trips to the hospital to comfort those suffering from Covid-19. In order to stay safe, the most senior leader in the Church of England reportedly underwent "special training in infection control" and wore "personal protective equipment (PPE) over his black clerical shirt and dog collar" when visiting patients.
9. Christians stepping up to meet increased need for foster care
The Covid-19 crisis has seen a stark, 44 per cent increase in the number of children requiring a stable family home, as the number of available foster carers plummeted with the start of lockdown.
Amazingly, however, many Christians have been stepping up and putting themselves forward to become full-time carers.
Home for Good founder Krish Kandiah told Premier:
"We've been so impressed by Christians up and down the country that have been stepping forward at Home for Good. In one city alone, Bristol, we had 80 inquiries during lockdown of people that wanted to help. So, the Church is responding and it's been super exciting.
"I really do I think a part of the DNA of the Christian life is to love your neighbour and to show hospitality and compassion."
10. Christian doctors delivering food to care home staff after their shifts
Noticing that care workers were not receiving the same level of recognition as medical staff during the coronavirus crisis, one Christian GP took it upon himself to get a group of medics together and personally deliver food to a number of local care home staff.
Dr Charles Esene told Premier: "We work closely with the care homes and we see the workers who are caring for these people and we know that they're doing a fantastic job. They are working selflessly, by the end of the day when they finish their shifts, whilst I would walk into Costco with my NHS card, they would still have to queue and I thought that's not completely right."
He said the group wanted to tell those in care homes: "We recognise you as fellow front line workers as well, this is the least we can do."