Churches cancel all worship services to help curb spread of virus
PUBLISHED: 16:40 17 March 2020 | UPDATED: 16:40 17 March 2020
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Churches across Suffolk and Essex have been told to put public worship “on hold” for the foreseeable future and become a “different sort of church” in the coming months to face the challenge of coronavirus.
Last week the Bishop of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, the Rt Rev Martin Seeley advised congregations in the diocese not to take the common cup of wine during Holy Communion.
But now, following the latest government advice, the church has decided that services are gatherings which should be avoided during the current phase of the virus outbreak.
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York, 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.
The archbishops expressed the desire that church buildings may, where practical, remain open as places of prayer for the community, observing social distancing recommendations.
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They also 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 said.
“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.
“We may not be able to pray with people in the ways that we are used to, but we can certainly pray for people. And we can certainly offer practical care and support.
“Please do carry on supporting the local foodbank and buy extra provisions for it. Ensure the night shelters wherever possible are kept open. 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.
“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 (Mothering Sunday) particularly remembering those who are sick or anxious and all involved in health and emergency services.