In the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic, as local churches and Christian communities adapted to new ways of worshipping, responding to community need and caring for one another, the Diocese of Bath and Wells listened to a range of voices in order to hear and learn from their experiences.
The resulting ‘snapshot’ draws together the themes that came out of listening to 17 different groups, from different ages and demographics, across Somerset.
Five different themes emerged from the discussions: a desire not to return to the way things were, a sadness for what has been lost, the acceptance that online church is here to stay, a need for the church to be authentic, and the value of the small, the relational and the unseen.
The listening exercise also revealed that younger Christians in particular missed face to face gatherings, and yet for most of those asked, the loss of access to a church building during lockdown was not raised as an issue.
Rev Charlie Peer, one of those on the group that brought together the feedback, said: “It was so valuable to hear people’s experiences during the pandemic, and it’s clear that the Church has a lot to learn from what has happened. There is a lot to encourage, but also a number of things that were chastening to hear, such as the way in which some people saw the church to be out of touch.As we feel our way forward into a new world, it is vital that we carry on listening to our communities. We need to change and to respond to what people are saying, shaping the Church of the future in order to meet the needs of the people we serve.”
The report is available to download below. A further listening snapshot may be carried out this autumn, and the diocese is also hoping to collaborate with other organisations to hold a wider listening exercise across Somerset.