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Remote Access to Church Services

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 Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers Conservative, Chipping Barnet

To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps the Church of England is taking to maintain remote access to church services during the covid-19 outbreak.

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner

I can tell my right hon. Friend that the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Easter day sermon was listened to by 5 million people and that the Alexa Church app has had a 70% increase in usage in the last month. Perhaps most notably, “The UK Blessing”, co-ordinated by Gas Street Church, Birmingham, has been downloaded 2.6 million times, and according to the Prime Minister is a sensational singing masterpiece to which he has awarded a point of light.

Photo of Theresa Villiers Theresa Villiers Conservative, Chipping Barnet

I warmly welcome the huge efforts going into ensuring that people have remote access to church services, but there are some situations when that is not a substitute for meeting in places of worship with one’s family, so can I urge the Church Commissioners and my hon. Friend to speed up the introduction of small-scale funerals within churches, with social distancing observed, because of the comfort they can bring to people bereaved by this terrible crisis?

Photo of Andrew Selous Andrew Selous The Second Church Estates Commissioner

I know what a deeply difficult issue this is. The Church will work with the Government on these issues to do safely what my right hon. Friend asks. She will be aware that cleaning in many of our churches is done by volunteers, some of whom are elderly and may have difficulty coming in between funerals, but the point she makes is very valid and has absolutely been noted.