Call to pray for the nation as UK's Covid death toll passes 100,000
The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have called the nation to prayer after the UK death toll from coronavirus broke 100,000.
In an open letter to the country, Archbishops Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell reflect on the "terrible milestone" and say that this "isn't just an abstract figure" but that "each number is a person: someone we loved and someone who loved us."
"We also believe that each of these people was known to God and cherished by God," they write.
They are asking people of all faiths and none to take time to pray or pause and reflect on the "enormity of this pandemic".
The Archbishops remember especially poorer communities, minority ethnic communities and people living with disabilities, who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.
They also reflect on the economic devastation and the many people who have lost their livelihoods, as well as the impact of restrictions which have prevented people from being able to attend the funerals of loved ones or be with them as they passed away.
"We write to you then in consolation, but also in encouragement, and ultimately in the hope of Jesus Christ. The God who comes to us in Jesus knew grief and suffering himself. On the cross, Jesus shares the weight of our sadness," they said.
"We therefore encourage everyone who is feeling scared, or lost or isolated to cast their fears on God."
But they also write that "death doesn't have the last word" and speak of "the hope of the vaccine", calling it "a testimony to the God-given wisdom and gifts of scientists and researchers."
"We urge everyone to take the vaccine as soon as it is offered to you," they said.
The Archbishops end the letter with an invitation to people to pray for the nation each day at 6pm starting from 1 February.
"One thing we can all do is pray," they said. "More than ever, this is a time when we need to love each other. Prayer is an expression of love."
Prayer resources can be found at www.ChurchofEngland.org/PrayerForTheNation.
The Archbishops have also issued this prayer:
A prayer for those who mourn
as we remember before you the thousands who have died,
surround us and all who mourn with your strong compassion.
Be gentle with us in our grief,
protect us from despair,
and give us grace to persevere
and face the future with hope
in Jesus Christ our risen Lord.