Co-op calls for the reopening of places of worship during lockdown

19 November 2020

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  • The Co-op is joining the growing number voices calling on the government to reopen places of worship during lockdown
  • Research from Co-op Funeralcare shows the devastating impact the closure of places of worship have had on people of faith and local communities - resulting in feelings of guilt and isolation
  • The closure means that collective worship cannot take place, a very important source of comfort for almost half (46%) of those surveyed who are religious

New research commissioned by Co-op Funeralcare, and conducted by YouGov, has revealed the devastating impact the closure of places of worship during the first lockdown has had on people across the UK and calls on government to safely reopen them to enable collective worship and community support in these difficult times.

During the first lockdown in Spring, over half of those surveyed (52%) had to worship privately at home as places of worship closed. One of the key consequences of this was that people could no longer worship collectively, a very important source of comfort for almost half (46%) of those surveyed.

The importance of communal worship

The research found that for some religions, collective worship is of particular significance, with 82% of those surveyed identifying as Pentecostal saying that worshipping with others is important, along with 70% of Baptists and 69% of Muslims. For these groups, more than any others, it was particularly important that places of worship remain open to them during a second lockdown (66% of those identifying as Pentecostal surveyed, 44% of Baptists and 61% of Muslims). Clearly, current closures and reduced options for worship at present are likely to be having a significant impact on these individuals.

Churches, synagogues, temples and other places of worship are not only important for those that worship there, in many cases they also play an important role in communities, hosting events and groups that bring people together and provide much needed support. In fact, over a fifth (22%) of people surveyed* said that being unable to attend community groups negatively impacted them during lockdown in Spring.

Because of the important role these venues play, many religious groups, including the Church of England, the Catholic Church and the Muslim Council of Britain have spoken out in recent weeks, stressing that places of worship are able to accommodate social distancing and that many steps have been taken to ensure that such venues are safe for those who wish to come together to worship or seek support from their community.

20% of those surveyed whose place of worship closed also said that, as a consequence, they were unable to attend the funeral of a loved one, the impact of which was documented in Co-op’s recent A Nation in Mourning report. The nationwide report, released in July of this year following the initial lockdown, found that 133,000 bereaved families said that their grief process has been negatively affected by the restrictions in place. Although places of worship are allowed to remain open for funerals during the current lockdown, communities across the nation have been unable to access the support they would usually find at their local place of worship.

Sam Tyrer, MD of Co-op Funeralcare, said: “Over the past year, we have seen just how important it is that communities come together and support one another during these devastating times. This research shows that, for many, places of worship are an incredibly important part of that and their closure is having a real impact on people’s wellbeing.

“Whilst it is clear that tough decisions have been made to curb the spread of Covid-19, the closure of places of worship may have unintended consequences on the wellbeing of those that rely on them, particularly the bereaved. We urge government to consider the health and wellbeing of individuals for whom places of worship and collective worship are critical and consider allowing such venues to fully reopen safely during lockdown.”

These latest findings come ahead of the launch of Co-op Funeralcare’s upcoming report, which will look at the various bereavement inequalities which exist in the UK.

To help support our communities to commemorate the life of a loved one, Co-op Funeralcare are hosting a virtual memorial service on Saturday 5th December at 3pm. The service will include poems, a performance from the Co-op choir, and a chance to light a candle for loved ones. Register for the event here.

Media Enquiries:

For further information please contact:

Sarah Jane Thoms / sarahjane.thoms@coop.co.uk/ 07890 384 552

Vikki McCrindle/ vikki.mccrindle@coop.co.uk / 07773 096 868

Lauren Pogson / lauren.pogson@coop.co.uk / 07702 505 626

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Notes to editors

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 1706 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 30th October - 5th November 2020. The survey was carried out online.

  • Total sample size was 2097 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 30th October - 1st November 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

About the Co-op:

The Co-op is one of the world’s largest consumer co-operatives with interests across food, funerals, insurance, legal services and health. It has a clear purpose of championing a better way of doing business for you and your communities. Owned by millions of UK consumers, the Co-op operates 2,600 food stores, over 1,000 funeral homes and it provides products to over 5,100 other stores, including those run by independent co-operative societies and through its wholesale business, Nisa Retail Limited. It has more than 63,000 colleagues and an annual revenue of over £10 billion.