Mission In A Pandemic

Church Army centres of mission report 2020/21


Mission in a Pandemic Live Question & Answer

Watch Misission in a Pandemic LIVE – Hear from Researchers Andy Wier and Elspeth McGann from Church Army’s Research Unit as they unpack the findings from the Mission in a Pandemic report. 📆This recording was originally shared in November 2021.

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Foreword from Peter Rouch, Church Army CEO

On 23rd March 2020 the UK followed the Republic of Ireland into widespread lockdown, and a season of life unparalleled in living memory began. In the midst of restrictions and the pain of loss, this has also been a period of social change. Christianity is the faith of God made flesh, and the disciples of Jesus are always directed towards the world, as the life of God in Jesus Christ was directed to the world. Small wonder perhaps that the upheavals of the recent past have resulted in not only challenge for the churches of these islands, but also a flourishing of creativity. We have been called into service in the name of Jesus in a rapidly changing and unpredictable world.

This report is a timely consideration of how one part of the Anglican churches of these islands has risen
to the challenge, taken knocks, but also discovered growth and creativity. Church Army, the Anglican
mission community, has the privilege of living out its missional calling amongst some of the most deprived neighbourhoods of these islands. The story of this report for those communities is certainly one of suffering under a social, political and economic system which in times of stress does not distribute that stress equitably. On the ground where they serve, our evangelists have seen the fault lines evident before pandemic widening and growing more destructive as the weeks and months have passed. Yet in the midst of that suffering, theirs is also a story of seeing God at work, reconciling the world to himself in love.

Like many, many parish churches, the experience of Church Army has been one of a yet more demanding ministry, but a transforming ministry – journeying to new places, finding unlooked for opportunities, receiving support and funding from those not previously associated with our work. It is telling that 44% of those volunteering with Church Army over this period were not regularly involved with a church community. Our evangelists have prayed hard, loved deeply and ‘had a go’. They have developed new skills and grown in courage. I pay tribute to them and join them in thanks to God.

Challenges still abound for us all but, in addition to the practical lessons about mission and ministry, elements of this report are perhaps important to bear in mind as we face into those challenges. Being persistent and courageous in service and evangelism has the capacity to make us more of the people God intends us to be. It can certainly push the buttons of our insecurities, but it can also open us to the grace that helps us confront them. The more we engage outwards, the more care we must take to resource the life of faith and be diligent in our care for each other. We do not all do things in the same way. We are in many ways a mixed bunch, a mixed ecology perhaps, but being open to partnership and collaboration in our response to God’s missional call can make a strength of that very diversity. There is not only one way of doing things, yet there is one God and Father of all.

I thank Church Army’s Research Unit and all who have contributed to this study for a timely and valuable report.

God Bless

Peter Rouch

Executive Summary

Undertaking mission and evangelism during an international pandemic has been an incredible challenge, throwing into question many things we had previously taken for granted. Covid-19 has dramatically changed not just the routines of our daily existence, but also how many of us experience and engage with faith, worship and what it means to be part of Christian community.

Building on our previous Mission Under Lockdown report, which was based on research conducted in the first few months of the pandemic, this report explores the experience of Church Army centres of mission (CoM) across the British Isles and Ireland in the period April 2020 – March 2021. These 12 months were a time of considerable flux, uncertainty, and upheaval and, with different restrictions and levels of lockdown, the experience of each region and nation was different.

In view of these differences and the unprecedented nature of the past year, Church Army’s Research Unit (CARU) were keen to research the experiences of centres of mission in a relational and conversational way. During the 2020/21 reporting period, there were 29 active centres of mission, and we were able to arrange video call conversations with Evangelists from 26 of these. These conversations were structured around an agreed reporting template, with Evangelists also given the opportunity to share written responses in advance.

The questions we asked were structured around three main areas – the impact of the pandemic, the Centre of Mission’s response, and wider reflections from the past year. Our report considers each of these three areas in turn.

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