On 4th November 2020 the House of Lords debated the Government’s Health Protection (Coronavirus) (Restrictions) (England) (No. 4) Regulations 2020. The Regulations introduce a second coronavirus lockdown in England, including the susp0ension of public worship. The Bishop of Winchester responded:
The Lord Bishop of Winchester [V]: My Lords, I am grateful to Her Majesty’s Government for seeking to ensure that the appropriate measures are in place to protect the most vulnerable and restrict the spread of this virus. It is important that we do not prolong such stringent lockdown measures because of the way that they impact on the mental, physical and, indeed, spiritual well-being of the population. However, I will not be supporting the fatal Motion. I recognise the exceptional nature of these times, and welcome that the regulations will enable places of worship to remain open for private prayer and broadcasting acts of worship. Creating such broadcast acts of worship often requires a team of people, both amateurs and professionals. I would welcome more clarity from the Minister on the number of people allowed to do this.
Clergy across the country have worked hard to ensure that our church buildings are Covid-secure for public worship, education settings, food banks and other essential services. In most places, by distancing and limiting congregation sizes, communal worship can safely take place without the need for an outright ban.
Religious worship is not a leisure activity: the freedom to worship and to assemble for this purpose is a right that we enjoy in this country and strongly advocate for in other countries. Continue reading “Bishop of Winchester protests Government suspension of public worship”
On 3rd November 2020 the House of Lords heard the repeat of a statement made by the Prime Minister in the House of Commons, announcing a second lockdown in England to tackle coronavirus. The Bishop of Winchester responded to the news that public worship would not be allowed to continue during the lockdown period:
The Lord Bishop of Winchester [V]: My Lords, the situation facing the country is gravely concerning and we all have a collective responsibility to avoid over- whelming the NHS with the spread of the virus. Churches and faith communities continue to play a crucial role in supporting their local communities. The social and economic support of churches has been estimated at more than £12 billion a year. In my diocese, many churches have offered emergency food and essential supplies to those in desperate need as part of the love your neighbour initiative. It is pleasing, therefore, that the Government have recognised the significance of this contribution by permitting places of worship to continue to offer such essential services during lockdown. I also welcome the provision for private prayer, broadcast and the continuation of funerals.
However the most reverend Primates the Archbishops and the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of London said in their letter to clergy this weekend:
“The sacramental life of the church cannot be seen as an optional extra.”
Access to the sacraments and communal worship are essential to sustain us with much needed hope at this time and to strengthen our commitment to social action. Continue reading “Bishop of Winchester asks Government for evidence to support lockdown suspension of public worship”
On 15th October 2020 MPs put questions to Andrew Selous MP, Second Church Estates Commissioner, on covid and church attendance, baptisms, weddings and funerals, IICSA, renting of church premises, and woodland holdings. A transcript is below:
Continue reading “Church Commissioner Questions: covid and church attendance, baptisms, weddings and funerals, IICSA, renting of church premises, woodland holdings”
On 14th September 2020 the Second Church Estates Commissioner Andrew Selous MP answered eleven written questions from Jim Shannon MP, on ethical investment, St Margaret’s Westminster, Christian persecution, South Sudan, church schools, coronavirus and church buildings, lead theft, the Beirut explosion, marriage, mental health, and ordinations: Continue reading “Church Commissioner Written Answers: ethical investment, St Margaret’s Westminster, Christian persecution, South Sudan, church schools, coronavirus, church buildings, lead theft, Beirut explosion, marriage, mental health, ordinations”
On 22nd July Lord Lexden asked Her Majesty’s Government “further to the Written Answer by Lord Greenhalgh on 26 May (HL4184), what discussions they have had with (1) the Church of England, (2) the Catholic Church in England and Wales, and (3) other Churches, about the reopening of church buildings for private devotional prayer and public worship.“
The Rt Revd Alan Smith, Bishop of St Albans, asked a follow up question focusing on singing and compulsory wearing of face masks:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, many of our churches and cathedrals are desperate to enable small groups of singers, perhaps four singers standing five metres apart from each other. Is there any possibility that that will be allowed soon? Secondly, will the Minister tell the House whether there are any plans for the compulsory wearing of face masks in places of worship?
Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks Government for clarity about Covid-19, singing and face masks in churches”
On 20th July the Rt Revd Nick Holtam, Bishop of Salisbury, received a written answer to a question on the green homes grant.
Lord Bishop of Salisbury: HL6798 To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the announcement by the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the green homes grant on 8 July (HC Deb, col 976), whether (1) clergy housing, and (2) buildings open to the public and run by charities, such as churches, are eligible for that grant.
Continue reading “Bishop of Salisbury asks Government about Green Homes Grant eligibility”
On 9th July 2020 Lord Black of Brentwood asked the Government “what assessment they have made of the impact of the restrictions in place to address the COVID-19 pandemic on the financial sustainability of churches and places of worship.”The Bishop of St Albans, Rt Revd Alan Smith, asked a follow-up question:
The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, legislation has not kept up with the practice of public giving or developments in technology, especially now, when, as a result of the pandemic, cash carries the risk of infection. Charities, including churches, can currently claim only on cash and contactless gifts—not on online gifts and donations. Will the Government consider allowing online donations to qualify for gift aid, as part of the gift aid small donations scheme? Continue reading “Bishop of St Albans asks Government for reform of Gift Aid rules to help churches and charities struggling financially”
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:
Continue reading “Church Commissioner questions: church building reopening, weddings, housing, public worship, music, online services, family life, church finances and the Transition Pathway Initiative”
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.
Continue reading “Bishop of Portsmouth asks Government about historic buildings”
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
Continue reading “Church Commissioners’ Written Answers: Reopening Churches”