By Desmond Davies, GNA London Bureau Chief
London, Mar. 18, GNA – The Archbishops of Canterbury, Justin Welby, and York, John Sentamu, have called for Church of England (CofE) churches to halt public worship until further notice in the wake of the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis.
In a joint letter, they said the CofE should become a “different sort of church” in the coming months to face the challenge of the virus.
“Being a part of the Church of England is going to look very different in the days ahead,” they wrote.
“Our life is going to be less characterised by attendance at church on Sunday, and more characterised by the prayer and service we offer each day.”
They added: “This is a defining moment for the Church of England.
“Are we truly a church for all, or just the church for ourselves?
“We urge you sisters and brothers to become a different sort of church in these coming months: hopeful and rooted in the offering of prayer and praise and overflowing in service to the world,” the Archbishops wrote.
“We recognise what a very unusual and painful time this is for everyone and we want to stress that we are praying for you all and are very grateful for all that you are doing,” they added.
The UK government has announced unprecedented peacetime measures to try to control the spread of the flu-like virus, with restrictions on public gatherings, transport and working.
The Archbishops said that church buildings may, where practical, remained open as places of prayer for the community, observing social distancing recommendations.
“Please do of course keep the church buildings open for private prayer wherever possible as we know so many do all the time,” they said.
They also invited the clergy to maintain the ancient pattern of daily prayer and, where possible, the eucharist – live streaming their worship if they have the resources to do so.
“We may not be able to pray with people in the ways that we are used to, but we can certainly pray for people,” the Archbishops wrote.
“And we can certainly offer practical care and support.”
They urged people to keep on “supporting the local food bank and buy extra provisions for it”.
Food banks in the UK provide donated food and other basic amenities free of charge to people who cannot afford these essentials.
“There are many very encouraging schemes happening right across our country in communities to focus on caring for the most vulnerable and do continue to play your part in those,” the archbishops wrote
“Then by our service, and by our love, Jesus Christ will be made known, and the hope of the gospel – a hope that can counter fear and isolation – will spread across our land.”
The Archbishops have joined other church leaders in calling for a day of prayer and action this Sunday particularly remembering those who are sick or anxious and all involved in health and emergency services.