“The Church has developed its online presence wonderfully well during the past year. We are probably very well placed to host virtual hustings of all the groups in our communities.”The Right Rev Dr Martin Fair, Moderator of the Church of Scotland, speaking recently on Premier Radio.
The lessons of lockdown have shown how many congregations in the UK are now ideally resourced to help their neighbourhoods to engage with the upcoming elections in 2021.
Church ministers are rightly concerned about being ‘too political’, and church leaders think carefully about the interaction between faith and politics. There is a strong tradition, however, of churches and community organisations facilitating election meetings, usually called hustings, in the run up to elections. They do this as a public service, to support the democratic process, to facilitate public debate and as a contribution to the common good.
At these events, members of the public can listen to and ask questions of the candidates who are standing for election. Meetings organised by church groups can provide an opportunity for respectful discussion in a neutral space, which is often appreciated by candidates as well as voters.
After almost a year of harnessing the technology of Zoom, Facebook live and YouTube streams, we now have another excellent way to serve our communities. Elections are as important as ever, and despite the pandemic, churches across the country can provide a safe platform for all election candidates to be heard and questioned. Whether it’s for national elections in Wales and Scotland, or regional mayors, police commissioners and local elections in England, the churches in your area can be a blessing to your neighbourhood by hosting a hustings.
We have put together lots of practical advice and ideas for online and in-person hustings, plus the legal considerations churches should adhere to, to make the whole process as straightforward as possible. You can find resources and supporting materials on our Elections hub at jpit.org.uk/election.
“I would encourage people to organise hustings: it is well worth it. It takes a lot of work, and you will need a team of cross-church people to make it work well. Start planning as early as possible, at least by getting in touch with political party agents. Once you have the main party in an area committed, the others will fall over themselves to come along. The candidates generally really appreciate the opportunity. It is a good opportunity to show that churches and Christians are interested and engaged in the wider world, and is a good witness.”Rev Tim Clarke, URC Minister, Portsmouth