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Faith minister speaks about losing his mother to Covid, his own faith and 'infinitesimally low' Covid rate in places of worship

by Cara Bentley

Lord Greenhalgh, the faith minister, has spoken about how he believes faith is a "force for good" as he shared his account of the past year, working alongside religious leaders to shape the Covid measures for places of worship. 

He's also described the emotional toll of not being able to visit the church his mother attended before she died after contracting coronavirus. 

In his capacity as Minister for Faith, Stephen Greenhalgh has been responsible for engaging with faith communities throughout the pandemic, including chairing the Places of Worship Taskforce and hosting regular roundtables with faith leaders. 

In an interview with fellow member of the Places of Worship Taskforce, national executive director of Faith Action Daniel Singleton, Lord Greenhalgh said it had been "a very difficult year, but also a very enriching year" and praised Christians and other faith groups for opening up their buildings as vaccination centres, saying "that's been where we've seen faith communities at their very, very best."

Watch the full interview here: 

Speaking about whether his own faith has developed or changed over the past year, he said: "Well, faith is a very personal thing and I guess the first thing is that attending church has not been easy. I wanted to go to the church where my mother went every week, but it was closed for a large part of last year and it was very, very emotional for me to go with my father in the first service after they opened up last year.

"We're a Roman Catholic family, my father converted to Catholicism from Anglicanism, in fact his grandfather and my great grandfather was a Methodist preacher so in that sense they slowly worked their way through the generations from Methodism to the Church of England to Catholicism. So I've reflected on my mother's faith, her desire to see the best in people and it's provided me with a sense of wanting to do the right thing in public life. It's also been a source of comfort to feel closer to close family members who are no longer here...they are there in spirit if not in flesh."

He went on to say that faith communities have provided incomparable help to people, not least through keeping their buildings safe, which he said: "I have to say places of worship have just done a phenomenal job to ensure they are not anything other than Covid secure and I pay tribute that the transmission rates in places of worship have been so infinitesimally low."

Lord Greenhalgh was appointed a Minister of State for Building Safety and Communities at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and the Home Office in March 2020. He has never been an MP but was Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime in London from 2012-2016 and Hammersmith and Fulham Council Leader from 2006-2012.


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