Coronavirus: Church of England suspends public worship amid outbreak

17 March 2020, 13:59

Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Rev Justin Welby (right) with the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu
Archbishop of Canterbury the Most Rev Justin Welby (right) with the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu. Picture: PA

By Megan White

The Church of England has suspended public worship until further notice amid the coronavirus outbreak.

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".

They added church buildings may remain open for prayer "where practical" and as long as worshippers observe social distancing recommendations.

A Church of England spokesman said weddings and funerals could still go ahead.

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."

The Church said it would be expanding its audio and video output, with more content available, including some livestreaming.

There will also be printable materials available for people who cannot easily access technology.

The announcement comes after people were advised to stop all unnecessary social contact.

Those who are over 70, pregnant women and people with underlying health conditions are being told to be particularly stringent with the distancing measures.

An industry body said couples who have insurance for their wedding day should be covered financially if forced to cancel.

The Association of British Insurers said: "People who already have a wedding insurance policy will not be affected.

"Given the evolving nature of coronavirus and regular changes to public health guidance, insurers are constantly reviewing the situation.

"If people are looking to buy wedding insurance, they will need to shop around and possibly speak to a broker."