The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are calling for Church of England churches to put public worship on hold and become a “different sort of church” in the coming months to face the challenge of coronavirus.
In a joint letter, Archbishops Justin Welby and John Sentamu said it was now necessary to put public services on hold until further notice.
But they said that far from having to “shut up shop”, the Church of England must face the challenge by becoming a radically different kind of church rooted in prayer and serving others.
It comes after the Government announced unprecedented peacetime measures to try to control the spread of the virus, with restrictions on public gatherings, transport and working.
The Archbishops expressed the desire that church buildings may, where practical, remain open as places of prayer for the community, observing social distancing recommendations.
They also invited 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.
And they urged congregations to be in the forefront of providing practical care and support for the most poor and the most vulnerable during the crisis.
“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.