Christian leaders have announced that all public worship will be suspended until further notice, but weddings and funerals will still go ahead to help stem the spread of coronavirus.
In a joint letter, 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.
The archbishops want churches to remain open where possible to act as places for the community, although social distancing measures should be followed.
Live stream worship
The pair also called on the clergy to maintain prayer patterns, the Eucharist, and to live stream worship if they have the resources. A Church of England spokesperson said weddings and funerals could still go ahead.
“Being a part of the Church of England is going to look very different in the days ahead,” the archbishops 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. 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."
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.
What about other religions?
Mosques are currently still open for worship but the Muslim Council of Britain have issued a strong recommendation for Muslim communities across the UK to suspend all congregational activities
Harun Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain, stated, “Muslim communities up and down the country, like others, have been carefully considering how best to continue with our regular social and religious activities, whilst trying to minimise the spread of the coronavirus.
“With the increasing rate of transmission and the number of deaths, medical and scholarly advice all points towards the limitation of social contact as the key towards reducing the spread.
“Whether it be at the mosques (particularly Friday prayers) which draw crowds including the elderly, vulnerable and those at high risk, weddings, social events or simple day-to-day activities, it is imperative that this extraordinary step is taken to ensure the safety and wellbeing of our communities, and our country as a whole.”
According to City Sikhs, gurdwaras are still operating for worship but they have recommended for Vaisakhi celebrations to be cancelled or postponed. Vaisakhi is a Hindu and Sikh festival which is due to be celebrated on 13 April this year.
They wrote, “Gurdwaras and other organisations should think about how they will make Vaisakhi programmes accessible for people in self isolation such as streaming events via social media and sending shareable links for the streaming via Whatsapp.”
Reform Judaism wrote, “Synagogue communities should avoid holding services, unless they consider it essential. In such circumstances (for instance, in order to achieve a minyan), the minimum number of people should gather together and government advice on hygiene and distancing should be adhered to. No individuals in categories considered ‘vulnerable’ should attend these gatherings.”