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Clergy’s Access to Churches

The hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked – in the House of Commons on 19th May 2020.

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Photo of Jerome Mayhew Jerome Mayhew Conservative, Broadland

What assessment the Commissioners have made of the implications for the access of clergy to their churches of the most recent Government advice on covid-19.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner

Clergy can now return to their churches to pray and live-stream services. For the time being, churches must remain closed for public worship, as set out in law. The Government set out their ambition to reopen places of worship from 4 July, subject to further scientific advice. No place of worship will be able to reopen before a final decision by the Government, the necessary changes to the legal position in the published regulations and the accompanying decision by the diocesan bishop, which will take into account local circumstances.

Photo of Jerome Mayhew Jerome Mayhew Conservative, Broadland

During this national crisis, there has been a vital role for the established Church to represent the concerns and fears of the whole nation. Does my hon. Friend agree that the physical presence of a parish church, open for prayer and attended by its priests, is an important signal that we are not alone in our struggle? Health workers, care workers, bin collectors, posties and now all those who are unable to undertake their work from home have been asked to accept additional personal risk to carry out their important work for the health and wellbeing of the nation. Should our clergy not be allowed to provide the same level of service to their—[Inaudible.]

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner

I very much agree with my hon. Friend about the physical presence of churches, but while our buildings may be closed, the Church is very much alive and has been astonishingly present in the midst of suffering and need, providing comfort, inspiration and a great deal of practical help. Those who allege that we have done nothing or vacated the field are not correct.