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Second Church Estates Commissioner (Oral): Christianity (Rural Areas)

12 March 2015

3. Martin Vickers (Cleethorpes) (Con): What steps the Church of England plans to take to maintain and support a Christian presence in every rural community. [908039]

Canon Sir Tony Baldry: The Church of England is committed to being a Christian presence in every community. The recently published “Growing the Rural Church” report identifies a number of recommendations to help rural multi-church groups to flourish.

Martin Vickers: As well as being places of worship, especially in rural areas, churches are community hubs, and with priests being spread over so many parishes now, there are increasing problems. Will my right hon. Friend do everything he possibly can to ensure that the Church provides as many clergy as possible for our rural parishes?

Canon Sir Tony Baldry: Yes, indeed. We certainly seek to recruit more stipendiary and self-supporting clergy. My hon. Friend makes an important point. The vibrancy of churches is important to rural life. There are 635 churches in the diocese of Lincoln. They all play an important part in the vibrancy and vitality of the countryside of Lincolnshire.

Miss Anne McIntosh (Thirsk and Malton) (Con): Will my right hon. Friend ensure that the Church Commissioners dig deep into their resources to ensure that the jewels of the rural crown of the multiple parish churches in a constituency such as Thirsk and Malton will be preserved and kept in the best possible state of maintenance?

Canon Sir Tony Baldry: One of the tasks I will take on when I leave the House is to chair a statutory body, the Church Buildings Council, which is responsible for the maintenance, repair and restoration of all 16,000 parish churches throughout England. I want to make sure that they are always seen as a blessing, not as a burden. We must acknowledge that the majority of English churches are in rural areas, which cover only a sixth of the population, so we have some challenges, but they play an important part in the lives of every village community.