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Parish Ministry

Volume 705: debated on Thursday 9 December 2021

At last month’s General Synod, the Archbishop of York spoke about the revitalisation of the parish in order that parish churches can reach and serve everyone in their community. I can tell my hon. Friend that since 2017, the Church Commissioners have given £130 million to support ministry in deprived parishes.

I thank my hon. Friend for that answer. I quickly pay tribute to the Bishop of Ramsbury in my constituency, Andrew Rumsey, who has been appointed by the Church to review the use of church buildings across our country. The bishop is England’s foremost expert on the parish, and I know that my hon. Friend will want to save the parish as much as the rest of us. The Church of England’s vision for future ministry includes the line:

“a Christian presence in every community”.

What is the Church of England doing to ensure that every community has a locally based, theologically trained and well-resourced cleric?

I am delighted to welcome my hon. Friend’s new bishop to his post. I can tell my hon. Friend that the Church of England remains committed to providing a Christian presence in every community. Last year, 591 people were recommended for ordained ministry, the highest number for 13 years. Ordinations to stipendiary ministry have increased by 43% since 2013. I also warmly commend the work of the Church Revitalisation Trust and its Peter and Caleb streams, which are increasing the number of clergy from diverse or working-class backgrounds and those in later life.

Notwithstanding what my hon. Friend has just said, he will know that there is considerable concern in parishes up and down the country about the recent consultation, which many fear could result in a weakening of the ministry, rather than a strengthening. What can my hon. Friend say to reassure people?

I understand my hon. Friend’s concern and that of many of our constituents up and down the country. I can only repeat that the Church of England remains committed to a Christian presence in every community up and down the country, and the work that the Church of England is doing at the moment is focused on making sure that that remains the case.

I understand that the Government have set moneys aside for the restoration and maintenance of churches. Can the hon. Gentleman tell me and this House whether the same amount of money will be set aside for the UK? Will Northern Ireland be a participant and a recipient of those moneys?

The hon. Gentleman, whom I call my friend, asks a question slightly beyond the remit of my responsibilities as the Second Church Estates Commissioner, but I will make inquiries on his behalf and write to him. I speak for the Church of England.