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Church Attendance and Participation

Volume 682: debated on Thursday 15 October 2020

What plans the Church of England has to increase the number of regular church attendees during the covid-19 outbreak. (907540)

What progress the Church of England is making on increasing participation in worship, weddings and other ceremonies. (907545)

The “A Church Near You” website advertises 17,000 regular Church of England virtual services and events, and those are only a portion of all that is on offer. Weddings and funerals are also often livestreamed, as my own daughter’s was in the summer, and my hon. Friends will be pleased to know that Carlisle cathedral streamed ordinations earlier this month and that St Martin’s, Liskeard will have a drive-in carol service in Morrisons car park on 20 December, which will also be livestreamed.

I thank my hon. Friend for that encouraging answer. Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, it has been at first impossible and latterly difficult to enable church congregations to meet physically as they used to. However, churches up and down the land have done amazingly by offering virtual services, prayer sessions and courses such as Alpha courses, meaning that many additional people who had never been to church before are now involved in a church. Will my hon. Friend join me in thanking churches of all denominations who have done so much during the pandemic to serve their local communities, ranging from worship opportunities to physical care, food distribution and pastoral support?

I thank my hon. Friend very much indeed for what he said. Of course, I am delighted to do so. I am sure, in fact, that the whole House would like to thank clergy, staff and volunteers who have risen to the challenge of maintaining worship and meeting need in a magnificent manner. They have been astonishingly present throughout the pandemic.

Government guidance talks of including participation in livestreaming of services, as my hon. Friend mentioned with his daughter’s wedding. What technical help is being given to assist churches to allow them to include more participation?

I can tell my hon. Friend that the Church made a significant investment in a new digital communications team back in 2016. The training has been used by over 4,000 clergy. Over 7 million people have used our daily prayer apps. Nearly 3 million people have watched national online services, with about a fifth of those being people who rarely go to church or do not go at all. The good news is that the Church is reaching more people than ever before.