EASTER, a time of great renewal.

It was striking, reading an interview with Reverend Martin Fair to mark the holiest Christian holiday, how his take on the Church of Scotland's rapid decline is so closely entwined with his hopes for its revitalisation.

Over the past 65 years, the Moderator of the Church of Scotland said, church membership has declined from 1.5 million members to around 350,000 today. By 2035 it may be extinct.

Yet Rev Fair is determined the church can be reborn so long as it becomes a servant of its communities, a useful muster point for those who want to fulfill local needs.

It has been striking throughout the pandemic to see how local churches - of all denominations - have become central to people's desire to act, their need to feel some way in control during a relentlessly unpredictable time.

Rev Fair said Glasgow Church of Scotland churches have handed out more than 30,000 food parcels over the past year.

The Gurdwara near my flat has been feeding hot meals to those in need of sustenance and company throughout the crisis, a massive feat of organisation carried out by and for those of many faiths and none.

Mosques nearby have done similar, so too has a local Jewish group.

A Catholic organisation in Glasgow told me it was the only homelessness service providing face to face support throughout lockdown.

That's not to say secular groups have achieved more or less, but that people who would describe themselves as of no faith have joined with religious groups in order to feel part of something useful in a way that was more unusual pre-pandemic.

Of course, all this is the ordinary business of faith organisations. Religious groups run foodbanks every week of the year. They were out overnight on the streets with homeless people long before the pandemic.

It's not uncommon to hear non-believers be utterly scathing of those with religious faith. But I often wonder whether they think the gaps would be plugged if they successfully scorned everyone out of their beliefs. The motivation of faith is demonstrably useful. Yes, people do good for others without needing a belief in a God to motivate them but would they do so in such numbers?

Last year the country saw an increased desire for community and for charitable action, spurred on by crisis. Yet already it feels as though this motivation is waning, as the crisis passes.

Facebook groups set up to support local communities experience dwindling engagement, the bursts of volunteers are lagging.

At the same time, there is an increase in reports of chronic loneliness, poor mental health and a sense that we have no collective way to process the grief of the past year.

There was a programme on Radio 4 the other week where the loved ones of a French gendarme who died protecting others in a terrorist attack spoke of the aftermath of his death.

Each, including his widow, framed how their faith helped them find meaning and continue to experience joy, despite this terrible loss.

I felt quite envious, listening to them, of the purity of their convictions in comparison to my fly-by-night ideals.

Raised in the church, despite having no real belief in God, I still take comfort from the rituals and routines. It is soothing to be in the company of others without judgement.

Secular society is missing a space where all ages and backgrounds, a true cross section, come together. There is no obvious place to join and talk about shared experience, moral questions or community with a wide mix of people.

Rev Fair mentions finding a new use for church buildings. He suggests having them open at 3am on Saturday mornings, for those spilling out of nightclubs to spill into.

In response to talk of the death of the high street, suggestions are made that town centres reinvent themselves as spaces for social enterprises and community hubs, in place of shops.

If that's the direction of travel, church buildings fit perfectly as part of it.

If a vision of radical change is on the cards for the Church of Scotland then now, in a time of healing from a debilitating crisis, is the time to achieve it.

That blend of faithful and secular coming together for common community good should be invigorated with churches a place for communion, in both a spiritual and an atheist sense.