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Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch asks the government to consider mental health benefits of reopening churches

As lock down restrictions are eased, one Kent MP wants to know whether the mental health benefits associated with worship are being considered when it comes to reopening churches.

Tracey Crouch, the Chatham and Aylesford MP (Con) said: "Although a lot of people are now zooming into services, it's not the same as physically being in the church. For many going to church to worship can improve mental wellbeing as much as reducing loneliness.

Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch
Chatham and Aylesford MP Tracey Crouch

"I want to know how opening up churches could help combat isolation and improve wellbeing because a lot of people are serious worshipers with strong Christian views."

Tracey Crouch became the world's first loneliness minister in 2016. In her substantive question she asked 'what assessment the Church of England has made of the potential effect on public health of reopening churches?'

A written response from Andrew Selous, the Second Church Estates Commissioner said: "The House of Bishops meets regularly to review its own guidance to clergy in light of Government and public health advice.

"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."

The Government set out its ambition to reopen places of worship from July 4, subject to further scientific advice.

In the meantime, the Rev Cindy Kent started broadcasting her Sunday service from Minster Abbey on the Isle of Sheppey live on Facebook.

The latest guidance from the house of Bishops can be seen here.

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