Church Commissioners written answers: church finances, covid and social action

On 17th November the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered written questions on church finances and the impact of coronavirus on church social action:

Chris Green (Bolton West and Athert0n, Con) : [113566] To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what assessment the Commissioners have made of (a) trends in the level of closure of churches and (b) the ability of worshipping communities to fund ongoing repairs to church buildings.

Andrew Selous: The details of individual parish finances is not generally a matter for the Church Commissioners, though other parts of the National Church Institutions and dioceses have been keeping planned giving and donations under careful review.

Churches that have a solid foundation of regular giving through direct debit or standing order appear to be withstanding the pandemic much better than those whose finances were more reliant on church hall income, fundraising events, visitor donations and cash in the offertory plate. During the first national lockdown whilst some parishes saw a substantial drop off in donations others have embraced new technology using digital giving, and social media and, when Church buildings are open, contactless giving.

Although there has been a significant reduction in parish payments to dioceses to fund ministry costs, this has been less than anticipated at the start of the national lockdown, in part boosted by use of reserves as well as the generosity of givers.

We are grateful to the Government for allocating over £30million from the Culture Recovery Fund to support major churches and cathedrals. The Church Commissioners have also made significant funds available where possible to support music, essential craft and tradespeople alongside sustainability funding and salary support for cathedrals.

The continuation of the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme is also important for the future funding of repairs to church buildings and the Archbishops’ Council have made representations to the Treasury about this.

Chris Green: [113564] To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what assessment the Commissioners have made of the effect of churches on community health and wellbeing through their provision of food banks, youth services, mental health services, addiction support services and other community services during the covid-19 outbreak and associated lockdowns.

Andrew Selous: The parish church is a key source of community support and I commend the work of clergy and volunteers across the country during this very challenging time.

Recent research published by Theos and the Church Urban Fund and separately by the National Churches Trust has shown the substantial social and economic contribution parishes, and cathedrals make to their local communities.

Across the dioceses of the Church of England churches are operating 35,000 based projects which serve the needs of their communities. I am pleased to say that many of these have continued to operate during the pandemic within the guidelines set out by Government on Covid-19, providing crisis support such as foodbanks, bereavement counselling, night shelters, debt relief advice, as well as project work to combat modern slavery and support victim of domestic abuse.

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