On 19th May 2020 the Second Church Estates Commissioner, Andrew Selous MP, responded to a written question on church reopenings submitted by Tracey Crouch MP.
Tracey Crouch (Chatham and Aylesford): 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
While church buildings remain closed for public worship in line with Government advice, the Bishops agreed in principle to a phased approach to lifting restrictions, in time and in parallel with the Government’s approach, with three broad stages. The first, effective immediately, allows clergy limited access to church buildings for activities such as streaming of services or private prayer, so long as the necessary hygiene and social distancing precautions are taken; the decision being made by individual clergy after discussion with their diocesan bishop. The second and third will see access for some rites and ceremonies, and for worship services with limited congregations meeting, when Government restrictions are eased to allow it.
Senior staff of the National Church Institutions have joined two of the Government’s ‘unlocking’ work streams, within the Department for Culture Media and Sport and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.