Faith in Wales: Counting for Communities:
Summary of Findings for the County of Gwynedd
Until now, Wales has lacked statistical evidence about the role of faith communities in the wider communities of which they are a part. The Gweini report, Faith in Wales: Counting for Communities, provides new information on the services provided by faith communities to the wider community, including: the numbers of volunteers they mobilise, the numbers of staff they pay to work with the wider community, the rooms and halls they make available, and their impact on tourism.
The survey on which it is based achieved an exceptional response rate of just over 49%, (around 47% for Gwynedd), and this allows summaries to be made for each of the unitary authorities. Here are some of the highlights of the information available for Gwynedd.
Gwynedd has over 320 active faith communities (individual congregations, or parishes in the case of the Church in Wales). Apart from one mosque, all faith communities identified in the survey are churches.
This represents roughly one church for no more than 350 people in Gwynedd.
Every week, roughly 9% of the population of Gwynedd is estimated to be present at a church service. However, this figure understates the numbers who attend over the course of a year. Taking the single largest service in each faith community over a year raises the figure to 20%. A considerably higher proportion that this must attend one or more religious services over the course of a year.
The range of services churches provide in Gwynedd is enormous, including many services governments are not well equipped to deliver. The top five are Hospital visiting; Support for bereaved; Marriage preparation; Support for older people; and Social activities (lunch club, coffee bar, etc.); in which the number of churches involved is estimated to be 82, 65, 60, 59 and 56, respectively.
In addition, a number of churches are already working in areas of emerging need and opportunity; around 10 churches are already working in at least one of the areas of employment training, alcohol and drug awareness, and personal finance issues and another 15 hope to work in these areas in the future.
Over 55% of the churches in Gwynedd are active in one or other area of community services, with an average number of around four areas of activity each.
Around 2,500 volunteers are estimated to work on behalf of the wider community in activities organised by churches in Gwynedd. This represents around 4,400 hours a week, equivalent to around 110 full-time workers.
In addition, churches in Gwynedd employ around 35 paid staff to work with the wider community, representing a further 800 hours a week, equivalent to 20 full-time workers.
Many churches provide accommodation for the wider community. In Gwynedd, around 55 are estimated to operate purpose-built community centres; around 100 rent out rooms to outside groups; and around 75 supply some accommodation free of charge.
Churches offer support for the Welsh language: around 100 churches in Gwynedd are estimated to be involved in running classes in Welsh, or to be involved in activities for Welsh speakers.
Using standard techniques, the economic benefit impact of just part of the services provided by churches to Gwynedd can be estimated at £4.9M per year.
And, of course, this is only part of the impact of churches. For example, around 20 churches in Gwynedd are estimated to be strongly involved in their local Community Strategy or to participate in Government regeneration strategies, or both.