The Archbishop of Canterbury has announced that public worship is "suspended until further notice" due to coronavirus, but a Church of England spokesman says weddings and funerals will still go ahead.
In a joint letter, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Justin Welby and John Sentamu respectively, said it was "necessary to put public services on hold" in the coming months.
They added church buildings may remain open for prayer "where practical" and as long as worshippers observe social distancing recommendations.
They wrote: "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."
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 want churches to remain open where possible to act as places for the community, although social distancing measures should be followed.
In the joint letter it said: “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.
“Please do carry on supporting the local food bank 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.”
- In the News
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