On 29th June 2020 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered two written questions on the reopening of churches and financial support for struggling parish churches from Bell Ribeiro-Abby MP.
Bell Ribeiro-Addy (Streatham): 65019 To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps the Church of England has taken to provide financial support to single parish churches to avoid the redundancy, salary review and staff restructuring of employed musicians.
Andrew Selous: In March, the Church Commissioners and Archbishops’ Council announced over £75m of liquidity support to dioceses and cathedrals. This money included allowing dioceses in financial need to access up to three months forbearance on sums required for the national clergy payroll [or clergy stipends] for a limited period and paying monthly grants in full for 2020. In May the National Church Institutions announced a diocesan grant scheme supported by the Church Commissioners, which totalled up to £35m of sustainability funding.
The Church Commissioners are unable to make grants directly to Parochial Church Councils and parish churches. Parishes employ staff such as musicians, assistants, and lay workers in a variety of ways. Where the Parochial Church Council directly employs an individual, the individual would have been eligible to be placed on furlough under the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS).
Bell Ribeiro-Addy (Streatham): 65020 To ask the Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps the Church of England is taking to ensure that church musicians and choirs can safely resume their work as soon as possible under Government guidelines; and what assessment the Church has made of the implications for its policies of medical evidence on the transmission risk of choirs and congregations in church settings.
Andrew Selous: The Church of England is working with the Government and Public Health England to restore choirs and singing to services as soon as it is safe to do so. There has been limited research available for Public Health England to use to make an informed assessment about the safety of singing, and the choir of Salisbury Cathedral is currently participating in a study organised by Public Health England to enable it to make these decisions in an informed manner. We await further guidance from the Government and Public Health England once these trials have been concluded.