Churches in every part of the Anglican Communion have been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic but are responding with courage and compassion. The Anglican Alliance’s new report, Building Hope Together, is an overview of how churches remain a committed, loving and active presence in their communities, even in lockdown: praying, comforting, informing, connecting, feeding the hungry, promoting dignity in need, welcoming the stranger, caring for the sick and affirming gospel hope.
The report highlights many examples of how churches across the Communion are putting their faith into action and making a positive difference amidst the trauma of COVID-19. These actions build on the gifts and assets of churches: their sustained community presence and relationships, their trusted leadership, their networks of volunteers and professionals, especially young people. They also draw on their skills in counselling and community mobilisation, their knowledge of the local areas to identify the most vulnerable, as well as their church buildings, schools and health facilities. Despite their buildings in many places being closed, churches are finding innovative ways of continuing to serve the most vulnerable in their communities.
To take just one example: in the Philippines, the Episcopal Church has connected with garment workers, currently out of work because of the pandemic, to commission them to sew Personal Protective Equipment for health workers – working from their homes and building on their existing skills. The Church has also developed a voucher system – called Dignity in Need – whereby the poorest receive money in exchange for a commitment to repay this grant through work on the church’s social and building projects once the pandemic is over.
The report contains many other inspiring and moving examples from different regions of the Communion.
The role of the Anglican Alliance in supporting the Communion during the pandemic
The Anglican Alliance exists to connect, equip and inspire the worldwide Anglican family of churches and agencies to work for a world free of poverty and injustice and to safeguard creation. Born of the 2008 Lambeth Conference and an initiative of the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Anglican Communion, the Anglican Alliance provides a mechanism for Anglicans to work together in the areas of development, relief and advocacy.
The Anglican Alliance geared up its COVID-19 response in February 2020, when it became clear that the pandemic was going to have an impact across the Anglican Communion. The Anglican Alliance responded by mobilising its existing networks and assets to build capacity and share learning across the Communion, at regional and global levels.
Since then, the Alliance has been engaged in a variety of initiatives to support the Communion during the pandemic. We have been convening an on-going Global COVID-19 Task Force to identify emerging issues, holding regular regional and global consultations to share learning and hosting thematic consultations on key issues, such as COVID-19 and migration, domestic abuse etc. We have built an online COVID-19 resource hub in four languages to provide technical, spiritual & pastoral resources. We have been mapping appeals from provinces and potential partners. And we have been sharing stories of hope.
We are also developing online training modules to address priority issues, including a course on church and community resilience, which launched in October with 153 participants from 44 countries, with 27 of the Communion’s 41 Provinces (plus one Extra Provincial) represented. The course is being conducted in six languages.
We will also be rolling out a reflective and theological conversation in the early new year on ‘Re-imagining our World’, involving churches, networks, agencies and others across the Communion.
Revd Canon Rachel Carnegie, the Executive Director of the Anglican Alliance, says, “While the whole world has been affected by the pandemic, the impact has been felt most acutely in fragile and marginalised communities. COVID-19 has revealed and exacerbated the inequalities between and within countries. The suffering and anxiety are immense – and yet, as we come into this Advent season, we continue to hear from across the Anglican Communion of churches sustaining hope in their support to the most vulnerable. This Advent we are called to reflect on our global interdependence and how we can be good news to one another across the world in this time of pandemic.”