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Coronavirus: Archbishop of Canterbury announces Church of England services 'suspended until further notice'

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The Archbishop of Canterbury says church services "must be put on hold" in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

Archbishop Justin Welby and the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, say it is now necessary to suspend public worship until further notice, and to live-stream services where possible.

In a joint letter issued today, they said the Church of England must face the challenge by becoming a radically "different sort of church" rooted in prayer and serving others.

Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. Picture: Foreign and Commonwealth Office (31805591)
Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby. Picture: Foreign and Commonwealth Office (31805591)

It comes after the government announced unprecedented peacetime measures to try to control the spread of the Covid-19 virus, with restrictions on public gatherings, transport and working.

The Archbishops said that, where possible, church buildings should remain open as places of prayer for the community, observing social distancing recommendations.

They also invited clergy to maintain daily prayers - live streaming their worship if resources allow.

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.

"This is a defining moment for the Church of England..."

They wrote: “Being a part of the Church of England is going to look very different in the days ahead.

“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.

“This is a defining moment for the Church of England. Are we truly are 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.”

Further information on what the suspension of public worship will mean will be available as soon as possible on the Church of England website.

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