On 19th May 2020 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered a written question on the reopening of churches, from Tracey Crouch MP.
Tracey Crouch (Chatham and Aylesford): 902801 To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what assessment the Church of England has made of the potential effect on public health of reopening churches.
Andrew Selous: The House of Bishops meets regularly to review its own guidance to clergy in light of Government and public health advice.
On 5th May the House of Bishops issued new guidance, which can be seen at: https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/news/house-bishops-backs-phased-approach-revising-access-church-buildings
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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.
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.
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On 19th May 2020 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered questions in the House of Commons on coronavirus, access to worship, family life, education, the clergy discipline process and hospital chaplaincy. A transcript is below:
The hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, was asked—
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On 19th May 2020, Lord Touhig asked the Government “what steps they are taking to coordinate the response to the COVID-19 pandemic with NATO to prevent any security risks”. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, asked a follow-up question:
The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, one of the most significant threats to our security would be if our Armed Forces were unable to guarantee that security and to play their part in NATO. With the recent positive tests for Covid among some of the crew on HMS “Queen Elizabeth”, is the Minister confident that any member of the Armed Forces who needs a test has ready access to one? How many have been tested, and how many of those tests have been positive?
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On 18th May 2020 a statement was given regarding housing during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, asked a follow up question:
The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, the Statement speaks of homes for all people as the Government’s vision, so I congratulate them on the funding they have made available which has allowed a huge amount to be done to support homeless people in a very short space of time. Does the Minister accept that withdrawing dedicated funding risks undermining all that has been achieved in providing housing as a first step towards the homeless having homes?
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On 18th May 2020 Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb asked the Government “what steps they are taking to address privacy concerns about (1) the use of the NHS Covid-19 contact tracing application, and (2) the introduction of immunity certificates.” The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, asked a follow up question.
The Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, the Minister has reminded the House that tens of thousands of people on the Isle of Wight have downloaded and used the app. People of the island often feel—with, I regret, some justification—that they are considered last if at all. Now, despite the questions about privacy, effectiveness and rollout, they have been the first to step up and make a significant contribution to the nation’s common good. Will he undertake to look at how their service might be recognised?
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On 18th May 2020 the Bishop of Newcastle, Rt Revd Christine Hardman, received a written answer to a question on mental health support for the social care workforce:
The Lord Bishop of Newcastle: HL3834 To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans are in place to provide mental health support for the social care workforce (1) during, and (2) after, the COVID-19 pandemic.
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