Church Commissioner questions: church building reopening, weddings, housing, public worship, music, online services, family life, church finances and the Transition Pathway Initiative

On 25th June 20202 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered questions from MPs in the House of Commons, on: church building reopening, weddings, housing, public worship, music, online services, family life, church finances and the Transition Pathway Initiative. A transcript is below:

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Bishop of Portsmouth asks Government about historic buildings

On 21st May 2020, Lord Cormack asked the Government “what steps they are taking to support (1) museums, (2) galleries, and (3) historic buildings open to the public, affected by the restrictions in place to address the COVID-19 pandemic”. The Bishop of Portsmouth, Rt Revd Christopher Foster, spoke in the debate:

Lord Bishop of Portsmouth: My Lords, the Church of England alone has 16,000 church buildings, over 12,000 of which are listed. We are at the bedrock ​of our communities and thus can be at the heart of recovery. I therefore make three points. First, we are rich in assets, but the pandemic means that income is plummeting, and budgets were already tight. I therefore urge the Government at least to remove VAT on repairs to historic buildings.

Secondly, government often brackets us with the hospitality industry. Are we hospitable? I hope so. Are we historic? Yes. Does such categorisation meet our distinct needs? No.

Thirdly, the Church encompasses buildings and people. Our impact on people will define us, so how we respond pastorally to the pandemic from our buildings will leave the deepest impression.

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Church Commissioners’ Written Answers: Reopening Churches

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.

rsz_1andrew_profile_2Andrew 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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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.

rsz_1andrew_profile_2

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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Church Commissioners’ Written Answers: Coronavirus and Reopening of Churches

On 18th May 2020 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered two written questions on the reopening of churches, from Dr Luke Evans MP and Andrew Rosindell MP.

Dr Luke Evans (Bosworth): 45480 To ask the right hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps is the Government taking to work with churches and dioceses to ensure the safe opening of churches for religious worship.

Andrew Rosindell (Romford): 45018 To ask the right hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps the Church of England is planning to take to allow it to reopen churches as soon as possible while limiting the risk of spreading covid-19.


SelousAndrew Selous: The Church of England is committed to the reopening of buildings in a phased way, in accordance with the rules, restrictions and timetable established by Government. On 5th May the House of Bishops issued guidance, which can be seen here: https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/news/house-bishops-backs-phased-approach-revising-access-church-buildings

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Church Commissioners Written Answer: Churches and VE Day

On 6th May 2020 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered a written question from Chris Loder MP, on VE Day anniversary commemorations:

Chris Loder (West Dorset): 43168 To ask the Right Hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what steps the Church of England is taking to fly Union Flags on its churches for the 75th Anniversary of VE Day.

Andrew Selous: The House of Bishops revised their guidance on access to churches on the 5th May 2020.

The new guidance can be read here: https://www.churchofengland.org/more/media-centre/news/house-bishops-backs-phased-approach-revising-access-church-buildings

Government guidance states that ‘a minister of religion or worship leader may leave their home to travel to their place of worship’. In most cases, they will do so in order to pray or to stream a service of worship.

If clergy wish to mark VE Day by ringing a church bell or flying a flag from their church buildings, that is within government guidance. This advice does not extend to bell-ringers, sextons or other church officers or volunteers.

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Church Commissioner Written Answers: Church closures, status of churches and clergy

On 5th May 2020 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered two written questions from Alexander Stafford MP about church building closures and status of clergy during coronavirus restrictions:

Alexander Stafford (Rother Valley): 42227 To ask the right hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, when churches will be re-opened for worshippers.

Andrew Selous: It is essential that when church buildings reopen for public worship or private prayer by members of the public, that it is done safely. In the meantime, churches across the country are holding virtual services and offering support to the vulnerable and elderly. Where they are unable to do this locally national resources are available such as the national church service on a Sunday and the Daily Hope phone line. Continue reading “Church Commissioner Written Answers: Church closures, status of churches and clergy”

Coronavirus Bill: Bishop of Rochester responds on church closures and care for vulnerable

On 24th March 2020 the House of Lords debated the emergency legislation from the Government to deal with the Coronavirus pandemic. The Bishop of Rochester, Rt Revd James Langstaff, spoke in the debate, highlighting issues to do with church closures, funerals, and care of the vulnerable, including the homeless, and those in prison or immigration detention:

 

“How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”

In many ways we are entering into a strange land, and indeed in some ways a land of exile: a land in which we are exiled from many of our normal patterns of living, in which people of faith are not able to attend their places of worship and in which many people find themselves having to live life in entirely new ways.

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Church Commissioner Questions – Church closures, coronavirus, persecuted Christians, marriage support

On 19th March 2020 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered questions in the House of Commons on church closures, coronavirus, persecution of Christians, and marriage support. A transcript is below:

Church Commissioners

The hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners was asked—

Church Closure and Use

Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con):

  1. To ask the hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what criteria the Church of England uses to decide when to close a church and offer the building to other denominations and traditions. [901629]

The Second Church Estates Commissioner (Andrew Selous): I am pleased to be able to tell my hon. Friend that the Church opens as many, if not more churches than it closes each year. Parishes may want to focus their mission elsewhere, if the church in question is in a very remote rural location or if there is a very high repair bill. Use for worship by other Christian bodies is generally considered the best use, but there are many other suitable uses.

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Church Commissioners written answer: bats in churches

On 28th February 2020 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, answered a written question on bats in churches:
Sir Christopher Chope (Christchurch): 19751 To ask the right hon. Member for South West Bedfordshire, representing the Church Commissioners, what (a) policy changes and (b) steps the Church of England is taking in relation to the 2019 survey of bats in churches undertaken with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund.