Churches across Scotland performed more than 200,000 individual acts of support during the initial coronavirus lockdown, a new report has revealed.
Between the start of lockdown on March 23 and restrictions being eased in Scotland in early July, 3,212 church volunteers carried out 212,214 acts which helped others.
The work was spread over 180 areas across Scotland, with 55,671 people benefiting.
The figures are revealed in a new report produced at the request of the Scottish Government by the Evangelical Alliance and the Serve Scotland organisation – which works to represent the church to national and local government.
During lockdown, volunteers worked to deliver food to those in need, phoned the elderly and people who were isolated, supported the homeless, and helped young people struggling with their mental health.
The figures came from a survey carried out by the Evangelical Alliance looking at church-based projects across Scotland.
The Stories of Hope report said: “2020 will forever be remembered for the Covid-19 pandemic. The impact on every part of Scottish society has been without precedent. The health, economic, educational and social challenges to our families, communities and nation continues to be severe.
“This has been a tragic and painful year. And yet this is a story not without hope. When Scotland went into lockdown in March, local churches began to see and respond to needs in their communities.”
Kieran Turner, public policy officer for the Evangelical Alliance in Scotland, said: “2020 has been a year of disruption for all of us and churches, like many other essential services, have had to adapt.
“This report has highlighted the significant impact churches up and down the country have had in supporting the most vulnerable in society.
“Churches have repurposed existing services and staff and volunteers have been quickly redeployed. New projects have been set up to deliver food, phone the elderly and isolated, support those homeless or claiming asylum, and connect with children and young people who were struggling with their mental health.
“For many, these services were literally a lifeline – often the only contact in a day when all other normal support networks and buildings were closed.”
Sarah, who moved to Dundee from a women’s refuge just before the lockdown began, recalled how she was “very isolated” before receiving help.
She said: “All alone and hit by food shortages in the first few weeks of lockdown, I didn’t know how I’d provide for my child.
“Then a leaflet for City Church Dundee’s community outreach was popped through my letterbox.”
She said when she called the church, help arrived within an hour.
“It was a huge relief and gave me a sense of hope in a really difficult time,” she added.
“Since then, the church has made every effort to support me and my child.”