Religion news 17 February

Image credit: Church of Scotland

60 per cent of black churchgoers in America attend black majority churches

Research from the Pew Research Centre suggests that black Americans attend church more regularly than the general population and pray more often. Sixty per cent of black adults in America who go to religious services — whether every week or just a few times a year — say they attend religious services at predominantly black churches, but many would like those congregations to become racially diverse. The survey of more than 8,600 black adults across the United States finds that young black adults are less religious and less engaged in black churches than older generations, and less likely to say religion is an important part of their lives. Full survey here

Research into Covid-19’s disproportionate impact on BAME people

A research project into the  social, cultural and economic impact of Covid-19 on racial and ethnic minority people, has been launched by the Centre on the Dynamics of Ethnicity. Data has shown that the number of deaths among BAME people is higher than the general population and attention has been drawn to low-paid work, high-density housing and social contacts. The project, based at Manchester University, aims to gather information that will lead to changes addressing these issues. Ipsos Mori is undertaking the survey among a wide range of religious and ethnic minority groups across Britain.

Vaccine hesitancy among Muslims worse in 28-45 age group

The polling group Muslim Census has revealed data suggesting 70 per cent of British Muslims are either willing to or have already taken the Covid-19 vaccine. This is a higher number than previously suggested and is based on a survey of 1,026 Muslims. But the data also shows that the number of Muslims expressing concern about the vaccine (29 per cent) is higher than the general population. It says vaccine hesitancy is concentrated within the 28-45 age bracket: 35 per cent of people of that age were either unsure or unwilling to take the vaccine. Full story here

Rabbi calls for Charedi Jewish community to stop large gatherings

Rabbi Herschel Gluck, a senior Orthodox rabbi in Stamford Hill, north London,  has called for the Charedi community to stop holding large weddings. In a BBC interview, he said the organisers must “put the brakes on”, after police were called to break up a wedding attended by 150 people in a school hall.  Research shows a high rate of infection among London’s ultra-orthodox Jewish community.

Global academic lecture series on religion and the Covid-19 crisis

Australian academics have launched a global lecture series, Religion, Crisis and Disaster. It starts on 24 February with a lecture from Dr Birgit Meyer, of Utrecht University, on religion and the pandemic. Other themes are 100 years of crisis and prophecy, and ritual despair and empty temples. Academics from the UK, Canada, Australia, Portugal, the Netherlands and Belgium are taking part.

Ash Wednesday church rituals transformed by Covid-19

Today is Ash Wednesday, marking the beginning of 40 days of Lent leading up to Easter. In the Christian tradition, the priest uses ash to mark the forehead of a worshipper with the sign of the cross. This year, Covid-19 restrictions mean the minister must sanitise hands, stand at arm’s length, wear a facemask, and sprinkle the ashes on the head without touching or speaking any words. The guidance continues: “Ministers may wish to encourage the imposition of ash within households.” Some cathedrals are holding services using these rules, others have moved the service online. A comprehensive round up of cathedral activities during Lent is outline on the Association of English Cathedrals website here

Pope Francis tweeted guidance on how to fast during Lent — but it was not related to food. Instead, he advocated fasting from sadness, anger, pessimism, bitterness and selfishness

The sea shanty vibe of Noah’s Ark

The story of Noah’s Ark has been turned into a sea shanty and performed by a virtual choir of 26 Church of Scotland ministers, elders and church members near Aberdeen. Inspired by his daughter, the Rev Peter Johnston, of Ferryhill Parish Church, wrote the words and church organist Kevin Haggart arranged the music to the melody of The Wellerman.  They sent audio files to choir members from the northeast, to Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, and churches in between. Peter Johnston mixed it: “It’s definitely something that folks enjoy doing and they really got into the sea shanty vibe. So that was wonderful.”  Join the 3,000 people who have already seen the video.