Church of England: Coronavirus – cessation of church services

The Church of England has announced this afternoon, 17 March, that “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”.

In a joint letter, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York call for Church of England churches to suspend public worship and become a “different sort of church” in the coming months to face the challenge of coronavirus. But they also say that, far from having to “shut up shop”, the Church must face the challenge by becoming a radically different kind of church rooted in prayer and in serving others.

They expressed the desire that church buildings may, where practical, remain open as places of prayer for the community while observing social distancing recommendations. They also invited clergy to maintain the ancient pattern of daily prayer and, where possible, the Eucharist – live streaming their worship if they have the resources to do so.

And they urged congregations to be in the forefront of providing practical care and support for the poorest and most vulnerable during the crisis.

Notes to editors

The Notes to editors of the announcement adds:

“In normal circumstances, individual incumbents and parochial church councils would apply under Canon B 14A to bishops for dispensation from holding the public services required by the Canons of the Church of England. However, on the basis of legal advice, and in the light of the Government’s advice on preventing the spread of infection, we consider that the canon law doctrine of necessity can be relied on and that the public services required by the Canons need not – and should not – take place until further notice.

This advice covers the public services which the Canons normally require to be held every Sunday and on principal feasts and holy days (Holy Communion and Morning and Evening Prayer) as well as the weekday Daily Offices.”

Comment

The Diocese of Norwich indicates that the Joint letter from Archbishops re: coronavirus was accompanied by guidance about Prayer in Church.

Cite this article as: Frank Cranmer, "Church of England: Coronavirus – cessation of church services" in Law & Religion UK, 17 March 2020, https://lawandreligionuk.com/2020/03/17/church-of-england-coronavirus-cessation-of-church-services/

4 thoughts on “Church of England: Coronavirus – cessation of church services

  1. As we are constantly being told we are not employed by the Church of England only licensed office holders. I have no intention of stopping church worship and will leave it to the parishioners to decide for themselves whether to attend or not. We have large Norfolk Barns of churches and small congregations so we can all sit far apart from each other.

    • The Press Release states:

      In normal circumstances, individual incumbents and parochial church councils would apply under Canon B 14A to bishops for dispensation from holding the public services required by the Canons of the Church of England. However, on the basis of legal advice, and in the light of the Government’s advice on preventing the spread of infection, we consider that the canon law doctrine of necessity can be relied on and that the public services required by the Canons need not – and should not – take place until further notice.

      This advice covers the public services which the Canons normally require to be held every Sunday and on principal feasts and holy days (Holy Communion and Morning and Evening Prayer) as well as the weekday Daily Offices.

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