Bishop of Rochester asks Government to clarify effect of new COVID-19 rules on church events

On 23rd September 2020 the House of Lords heard the repeat of a Government statement on new COVID-19 restrictions. The Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd James Langstaff, welcomed the recognition of the importance of keeping places of worship open and asked what the new rules meant for ordinations.

The Lord Bishop of Rochester: My Lords, I am looking forward to my invitation to curry supper. More seriously, I think I speak on behalf of all the ​faith communities in welcoming the Prime Minister’s continued affirmation of the importance of places of worship being open, albeit with restrictions, not just for the private benefit of the adherents of a particular faith but for wider community cohesion and well-being, bearing in mind not least that many of these places host food banks and other community care initiatives. I hope that, if any further measures are needed, that community well-being dimension will be kept in mind alongside others.

I return to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Newby, about the 30 and the 15 attendance at particular kinds of events and add to that the announcement made, I believe, this afternoon that as of Monday attendance at life events will be restricted to six. There is some confusion about definitions here. As a narrower question, can the noble Baroness confirm that an ordination service, of which there will be dozens all over the country in the next few weeks, is not a life event for this purpose but rather a regular part of church and community life? Restricting attendance to six in a space such as Canterbury Cathedral would seem a bit odd when tourists can visit every day.

Baroness Evans of Bowes Park (Con):  I thank the right reverend Prelate. I am afraid I am not so on top of that detail as to be able to give him an answer I would have confidence in, but I will certainly take his point back to MHCLG, which I believe is the lead department on this. I am sure that Ministers there will want to talk to representatives from the Church and other faiths to make sure the rules make sense.

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