While I acknowledge the challenges that churches have faced in organising services of public worship, I am somewhat disappointed with the many weeks that some parishes have gone without services. What concerns me is that, if the Church quite reasonably uses more online resources in coming years, it should not use that to reduce the number of clergy, who have a much wider role in our communities than providing services. Can my hon. Friend assure me that this will not be used an excuse for reducing clergy numbers?
Increasing numbers of churches are now open again across the country, and while online services will no doubt continue, they are not seen as a substitute for meeting in person. Clergy have played an essential role during the pandemic, and I thank them warmly for everything they have done. My hon. Friend will be reassured to know that the Archbishop of York told the General Synod in February that the Church needs more priests, not less, and a parish system “revitalised” for its future mission to the nation, building on the work that the Church has done so well to tell the good news of Jesus and to meet need during the pandemic.