Church Commissioners’ Written Answers: Baptisms, Weddings and Funerals during Covid-19

On 19th May 2020 the Second Church Estates Commissioner Andrew Selous MP, answered two written questions, from Rachael Maskell MP and Barry Sheerman MP  on the reopening of churches for baptisms, weddings and funerals:

Rachael Maskell (York Central): 902797 To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what the Commissioners’ timetable is for enabling churches to reopen safely for funeral services after the covid-19 lockdown.

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Andrew Selous: The Church Commissioners do not have responsibility for setting a timetable for the reopening of church buildings for funeral services.

Current guidance from the House of Bishops is not to conduct funeral services in church buildings because of widely expressed concerns about parishes having capacity to conduct such funerals safely, including being able to clean churches thoroughly between services to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus. This is guidance, not instruction.

We are acutely aware of the anguish of those not able to have or attend a funeral in their parish church in the current circumstances. Where it is requested a priest will be present to conduct a funeral service, either at a crematorium or at the churchyard. The House of Bishops meets regularly to review its guidance which will be updated in line with changing circumstances, and published on the Church of England website.


Barry Sheerman (Huddersfield): 902798 To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what the Commissioners’ timetable is for churches to reopen for baptisms, weddings and funerals following the covid-19 outbreak.

Andrew Selous: The Church Commissioners do not have responsibility for setting a timetable for the reopening of church buildings for funeral services. Baptisms and weddings cannot at present be celebrated inside church buildings, and the relevant Cabinet Office and MHCLG guidance can be seen here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close/further-businesses-and-premises-to-close-guidance#contents

Current guidance from the House of Bishops is not to conduct funeral services in church buildings because of widely expressed concerns about parishes having capacity to conduct such funerals safely, including being able to clean churches thoroughly between services to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus. This is guidance, not instruction. We are acutely aware of the anguish of those not able to celebrate significant life events such as baptisms, weddings and funerals in their parish church in the current circumstances. The House of Bishops meets regularly to review its guidance which will be updated in line with changing circumstances, and published on the Church of England website.