In these recent tough times, the global Corona Virus Pandemic has been affecting everyone in a range of different ways- not only their personal life and daily struggles, but also that of their spiritual one. The Parish Priest of Egham: Canon Chris Spain agreed to speak to me about these great impacts and how this has not only affected himself and the wider Church community, but all individuals within the Parish.  

How did you combat the barrier of the lockdown periods and how did this affect the Church? 

Father Chris: We provided online live streamed Masses over ‘Facebook Live’ as people were physically restricted in attending services in-person. I also took the extra step to assist children with their faith- holding Sunday afternoon classes, specifically for those with learning disabilities, including both secular and spiritual activities for those who may have felt most overwhelmed with these profound changes to their everyday lives and needed extra support. This was accepted with much gratitude, with the children reported to experiencing much enjoyment and excitement at seeing a familiar face across the screen! 

How has the Pandemic affected the turnout of people who attend Church on a regular basis? 

Father Chris Spain: Overall, the split has been around fifty-fifty, with around half the usual congregation making a return to the weekly Masses and actively participating in the services.  

Do you believe this reduction in the number of people returning is due to a loss in faith or changes in beliefs as a result of the disastrous impacts of the global pandemic? 

Father Chris: This is very difficult to assess. Yes, it may for some be due to a loss of faith, whereas for others their expression or concept of faith has merely changed. Overall, it depends on the individuals desire to be involved in the life of the Church and their duty to their Catholic faith, with some viewing it simply as an opportunity to have a rest! 

How is the Church encouraging people to come back after the pandemic? 

Father Chris: We cannot force people to return but are using the values of liberation and love both through the pandemic and post pandemic, to address this issue and encourage people back into the family of the Church. 

What were some of the main negatives experienced as a result? 

Many have struggled with mental health issues, which I have been called to deal with- only a couple weeks ago being called up multiple times before 9.45am to address those in need! In addition, the lack of people has resulted in a significant loss of income with a reduction in donations, however this is not as crucial as our expenditure is also reduced, therefore levelling it out somewhat. 

Despite all the negatives we associate with this pandemic, has it produced any positives as a result for the Parish and yourself? 

Father Chris: I would say many embraced Covid with a good spirit and this led to the creation of a new team of stewards and new people getting involved in the life of the Church and helping more. For example, cleaning after the services, welcoming people and ensuring they are comfortable and at ease particularly at this crucial time when making the transition to returning to the Church.  

Therefore, we can see the range of both positive and negative impacts of this global pandemic on Churches and their wider communities, impacting everyone in a range of different ways and hope the local Churches and their Communities support one another and push past the precarious pandemic!