No limit to church service numbers but singing is off the cards for now

Weddings are capped at 30 people, including the minister and couple, but there is no limit on the numbers attending services(Photo: Unsplash)

There is no limit to the number of people churches can allow into their buildings when services resume on 4 July, MPs have been told. 

While weddings have been capped at 30 people, there is no such limit on public worship as long as churches are compliant with Covid-19 safety measures, Andrew Selous, the Second Church Estates Commissioner, told the Commons on Thursday. 

"The last three months have been the first time in more than 800 years that England has gone without public worship and the sacraments, so there is real joy that we can meet again, socially distanced, from 4 July," he said.

"I can give an assurance that the personal safety of clergy who are shielding should be prioritised and they can continue to do their duties remotely." 

He added: "For church services, there is no maximum number within a place of worship as long as the premises comply with covid-secure guidelines." 

But worship services will be without the singing for now, he confirmed. 

When asked by Tory MP Michael Fabricant when he might be able to attend evensong again at Lichfield Cathedral, Mr Selous answered: "Cathedrals such as Lichfield are at the centre of the amazing choral tradition that we have in this country.

"Sadly, I have to tell him that singing and chanting are not allowed even at a distance, due to the additional risk of infection, and woodwind and brass instruments should not be used, but that still leaves many other instruments.

"His constituents can return for public worship from 4 July and I know that Lichfield Cathedral will be making them very welcome when they return. 

Sir Desmond Swayne quipped that he used to enjoy a "hymn sandwich" before the pandemic.  He challenged Mr Selous on how the Church might "lure us back if we're not allowed to sing". 

"Could I suggest, as a minimum, shorter services, even shorter sermons, some comfortable words from the Book of Common Prayer and an end to prating prelates?" he said. 

In reply, Mr Selous said he hoped the New Forest West MP had been taking part in some "uplifting" online worship services during lockdown, and that he was sure the warmth of welcome and opportunity for fellowship "will prove an irresistible temptation" for Sir Desmond to return to church.