There are elections happening across England, Wales and Scotland on Thursday 6 May.
What are the Churches doing?
In terms of the number of eligible voters it will be the biggest expression of democratic opinion outside a UK General Election.
In Scotland, it will be a Parliamentary Election, with all 129 MSPs being elected.
In Wales, the same is true for the Senedd and its 60 MSs.
In England there will be a widespread round of elections to local councils and metro mayors.
6 May 2021 will also see the elections that were due to take place last year but that were postponed for 12 months due to Covid-19: for the 40 Police and Crime Commissioners across England and Wales, and London’s Mayor and London Assembly.
Unlike a UK General Election, the issues at stake are going to vary considerably depending on which election is happening in your area.
So, what’s a role of the Church in all this?
In the past many congregations have held hustings or election meetings, allowing their community to come together in a public forum to put questions to the candidates.
This act of civic generosity is not about pushing the churches policy agenda, but instead providing a platform for constructive debate and helping to inform voters about the choice that they face: a more active participation in democracy than just putting an x in a box. It can be a way of demonstrating support for democracy and the democratic process itself, which after the scenes in the US Capitol last month, we are perhaps more aware of its fragility and need to be protected.
Due to the Covid-19 restrictions on social distancing and events, we don’t expect there to be any in-person hustings this year. Because of this we’ve revamped our hustings information and guidance with ideas about how to take them online.
As we approach the election there may be opportunity for preachers and church leaders to reflect on some of the big issues that face the whole of society: Covid-19, Brexit, poverty, the climate crisis and so on. The launch of a new preaching video and podcast series Politics in the Pulpit by JPIT’s Beth Allison-Glenny will be a really useful resource.
As individuals, and as church communities, we can pray for the election: for candidates, agents, campaigners, for returning officers and polling place staff, for those doing the count, for journalists and for voters. Carol Wardman, the Bishops’ Adviser for Church and Society for the Church in Wales has written this prayer for the elections:
at our creation you made us not separate from the world, but of the same substance;
and you entrusted us with the care of the Earth and of one another.
You gifted us with intellect, imagination and freedom to consider different models of government; and you call to public service women and men with hearts and minds
set on creating a harmonious and flourishing society.
Grant us, we pray, the discernment to use wisely our privilege of choice at this election,
treating with respect all those who put their time, energy and talents at our disposal.
Guide both electors and candidates with insight, compassion and unselfishness,
that together we may understand what are your priorities,
and make our homeland here on Earth a place where all people and all of your creation can thrive.
And, once the elections are over, it is time for the Church to renew and build relationships and connections with political representatives. The ‘Meet Your MP’ and ‘Meet Your MSP’ programme could easily be adapted to ‘Meet Your MS’, ‘Meet Your Mayor’, ‘Meet Your PCC’ and so on.
Through participation, dialogue, the sharing of ideas and experience and reminding those in positions of power and influence of their responsibility to everyone they represent, particularly those who struggle against poverty and marginalisation – this is kingdom work.