Religion worth £2 billion to the UK economy
Yet a report entitled Counting for Communities reveals the extensive contribution of faith community congregations (as opposed to para-congregation religious organisations) actually make, and demonstrates that religion is worth in excess of £2.1 billion to the UK economy. While Cranmer sees no need to justify God in terms of Mammon, this positive contribution does somewhat negate the blind assertions of ‘worthlessness’.
The report was commissioned by voluntary sector bodies working with the Welsh Assembly, who assessed the financial worth of faith communities in relation to welfare provision, youth work, marriage prepration, bereavement counselling, employment training, faith tourism, alcohol and drug awareness, personal finance and community building use. Faith communities are also strongly involved in local cultural and sporting activities – including music (choral singing tops the list), football, and exercise and fitness classes.
The faith communities are staffed by some 42,000 volunteers, and the total number of hours worked by these volunteers is estimated at just under 80,000 a week, equivalent to around 2,000 full-time workers.
All of this was calculated to contribute £102 million per annum to the Welsh economy. If this were projected for the UK as a whole, purely in terms of population, it may be asserted that faith community congregations are worth £2.1 billion. And this ignores the reality that some of the key religious centres of England and Scotland are worth rather more and are much better attended than many of those in Wales.
The Archbishop of Canterbury said that this report ‘demonstrates just what an extensive and valuable role faith communities play in today’s society’. And Welsh First Minister Rhodri Morgan, in his foreword to the report, says that it ‘will surprise a good many both within the “faith sector” and more widely across the public and voluntary sectors through the sheer length and breadth of the faith communities’ contribution that it reveals’.
It comes as no surprise at all to learn that Christian faith communities in particular offer a vital range of services in thousands of communities, which complement and enhance the work of government. And doubtless they also do it a good deal better.
Cranmer is bemused that Government does not therefore liberate and devolve further – both for the good of their souls and the purse of the taxpayer.