Coronavirus: Westminster Abbey “dealt a terrible blow”

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The Dean of Westminster Abbey, The Right Reverend Dr David Hoyle, told the BBC: ‘We are vulnerable and we are becoming more vulnerable’


Westminster Abbey has lost more than £ 12million in revenue this year and is expected to lay off around 20% of its staff due to the lockdown.

Over 90% of its income comes from visitors paying an entrance fee.

It closed on March 20 and didn’t start reopening for limited sightseeing until July 11.

The Dean of Westminster Abbey, The Right Reverend Dr David Hoyle, told the BBC that the coronavirus had dealt a “shattering blow” to the finances of the abbey.

Separately, the Church of England’s 42 cathedrals are set to drop more than £ 28.4million from what they thought their budget would be this year.

They are expected to lose an additional 15.5million pounds next year.

“Breathtaking” loss

The Association of English Cathedrals, which represents Westminster Abbey and the 42 Church of England cathedrals, has warned that job cuts will hit churches across the country when the government’s job retention program would end in October.

The abbey’s financial reserves would be depleted by a third from September, Dr Hoyle said, and would continue to decline as visitor numbers are not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels for five years.

“There is a real need here,” he said, warning that Westminster Abbey expected a similar “breathtaking” loss of between £ 9m and £ 12m next year.

The abbey is open for services and visits, but the number is limited because social distancing is enforced.

Dr Hoyle said it was “inconceivable” that the abbey would be so quiet, because in a “normal” month of July it would admit 1,000 people per hour.

“We are vulnerable and we are becoming more vulnerable,” he said.

“We are negotiating one of the biggest challenges to hit the abbey in recent times. “

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Coronavirus has seen the abbey closed for the longest time since the Queen’s coronation


The Abbey has already announced plans to cut regular Sunday services at St Margaret’s, a medieval church in Parliament Square. St Margaret’s professional choir will be dissolved and the faithful will be invited to merge with the Abbey congregation.

Due to its status as Royal Peculiar, Westminster Abbey is not one of the 42 cathedrals of the Church of England. Instead, it belongs directly to the monarch, which means it is not eligible for funding from Church commissioners.

“Almost zero”

While the abbey derives most of its income from tourism, many places of worship across the UK depend on cash donations from congregations to survive. Having been forced to close their doors due to the foreclosure, many are struggling financially.

A Sikh temple, Singh Sabha London East, has typically received around £ 80,000 per month in donations from participants. During the lockdown, despite losing 90% of their monthly income, the gurdwara provided more than 4,000 meals for NHS staff and other key workers.

But Sukhbir Bassi, one of the top gurdwara officials, said this could not continue without government support.

“We have serious and serious problems,” he said.

Legend

Singh Sabha London East received £ 80,000 a month in donations ahead of the lockdown


The government has pledged £ 750million to support voluntary, community and social enterprise organizations.

A spokesperson for the Department of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We understand the hardships the lockdown has caused for believers, which is why we have been working in partnership with religious leaders to enable a gradual reopening and safe places of worship. ”

He said faith-based organizations had access to government support, including the Coronavirus Community Support Fund.

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