As the Archbishop of York has pointed out, the Church has been “astonishingly present” throughout the pandemic, with over 35,000 active community projects. The GRA:CE Project report by Theos and the Church Urban Fund documents the enormous range and depth of this involvement, and the National Churches Trust’s “The House of Good” report recently estimated that parishes contribute around £12.4 billion of social good to the English economy.
I know that my hon. Friend would agree with me that at this particular time our churches are more important than ever. Certainly in my constituency, they do remarkable work—for instance, with the Southend night shelters—and during the coronavirus pandemic, they have been delivering food and medicines to vulnerable people. Will my hon. Friend please tell the House what the Church is doing to thank local churches and to celebrate their work?
I thank my hon. Friend for his question, and he is absolutely right that we all owe a huge debt of gratitude to clergy and parish workers, who have worked extraordinarily hard throughout the pandemic. In Southend West, for example, at Saint Saviour’s Westcliff, the congregation host a food bank and are collecting prescriptions and delivering food to those who are unable to leave their homes in my hon. Friend’s constituency. The Church of England is encouraging all congregations to continue with this kind of neighbourliness over the Christmas period to support vulnerable and lonely people.