Church and faith leaders join in National Day of Reflection to remember Covid-19 victims

Leaders from across the religious spectrum are joining together today in a National Day of Reflection a year after Britain first went into lockdown.

Tuesday marks the first anniversary of lockdown, with over 126,000 people dying from Covid-19 in the UK to date.

The day of observance will be spent in prayer and poignant reflection remembering the victims, with a minute's silence being observed at midday, followed by a bell toll.

In the evening, famous landmarks like Trafalgar Square and the London Eye will be lit up yellow.

At 8pm, people are being encouraged to stand at their doors with candles and other lights as a "beacon of remembrance".

The National Day of Reflection has been organised by Marie Curie and the Together we Thrive faith coalition, and is being led by Prince Charles who said: "Whatever our faith or philosophy may be, let us take a moment together to remember those who have been lost, to give thanks for their lives, and to acknowledge the inexpressible pain of parting."

In a joint letter, 82 faith leaders supporting the observance said: "Each person we remember on this day is special, loved by us and by God.

"We can't fully take away the pain felt over the last year, but we can take a moment to reflect and to connect with others to remind ourselves that we are there for each other."

Church leaders from a range of denominations have backed the cause, including the Church of England, Church of Scotland, Methodist Church and Salvation Army.

The Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally, encouraged people to remember "those we have lost", while "reaching out to connect with those who have survived and will need our support and love in the coming weeks and months."

"This pandemic has taken so much from so many of us. Not just our loved ones, but our ability to grieve in our normal ways, surrounded by friends and family," she said.

"Alongside all of the pain, the pandemic has also given us something, a renewed sense of community and a sense that we are looking out for each other."

A similar initiative in the Church of Scotland, Lights for Lives, is asking people to light a candle at 7pm on Tuesday evening to remember the victims as well as the bereaved.

Rev Robbie Hamilton, minister of The New Wellwynd Parish Church in Airdrie, will be one of those taking part.

He has lost four members of his family in the last year and conducted a large number of funerals for Covid victims since the start of the pandemic, over 30 of which were for members of his own congregation.

He said Tuesday would be a chance to acknowledge a "collective sense of loss" both within local communities and at a national level.

"We're going to go back to church as a congregation and when we look around there will be people who were there last year but have just disappeared. That's hard - not just for churches as many groups are going to face this so I think we need to join together," he said.

The Rt Rev Dr Martin Fair, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said: "Other than those who remember the war years, this has been a year like no other - and not for good reasons.

"All of us have lost in one way or another and, of course, many have actually lost friends and loved ones, often in the most tragic circumstances.

"And yet there have been positives. Communities have come together in wonderful ways and that's exactly what light for lives is all about - all of us coming together to remember and to stand as one. I very much hope that people across the nation will participate."