FROM THE ARCHBISHOPS’ LETTER (17 March 2020).
(The letter was addressed, first and foremost, to Anglican clergy and their congregations)
We want to offer advice and encouragement at this very difficult time for the whole of our country, having consulted with the bishops across the Church of England to whom we are grateful for their wisdom and help. […] We recognise what a very unusual and painful time this is for everyone and we want to stress that we are praying for you all and are very grateful for all that you are doing.
It has always been the historic vocation of the Church of England to be the church for everyone. William Temple, one of the great Archbishops of Canterbury and York of the last century, is often quoted as saying that we are the one organisation which exists for the benefit of its “non-members”. As the challenge of the coronavirus grips the world, and as the Government asks every individual and every organisation to rethink its life, we are now asking the Church of England in all its parishes, chaplaincies and ministries to serve all people in a new way.
Public worship will have to stop for a season. Our usual pattern of Sunday services and other mid-week gatherings must be put on hold. But this does not mean that the Church of England has shut up shop. Far from it.
Prayer and Service
Being a part of the Church of England is going to look very different in the days ahead.
Our life is going to be characterised less by attendance at church on Sunday, and more 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.
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.
Please, therefore, join us in this great challenge; and pray for our Government and nation, for each other, and especially for those who work in our health and emergency services.
With every blessing,
+Justin (Archbishop of Canterbury) +Sentamu (Archbishop of York)
(First published in Tidings, 23 March 2020)