As the UK grapples with a second wave of coronavirus, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York have called on the Church to play a vital role in offering hope and comfort to the nation.
In a joint letter to bishops of the Church of England, Archbishops Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell admitted it was "hard" to face a second wave just as people were hoping for a return to normal.
There is a "growing nervousness" about Christmas, they observed, with many restrictions still expected to be in place, and a general "weariness" among the public in the face of so many challenges thrown up by coronavirus.
But they added that the "hope and stability of the gospel" could bring the nation through "the darkest times", as they called on the Church "to be determined, resilient and hopeful".
"We will need to be more critical in our response to restrictions that are above and beyond government regulations, helping the church at the local level, in parish and diocese, steer a course that is marked by responsible action towards each other, care for the most vulnerable, and witness for the poor and disadvantaged who are suffering disproportionately. All this is the nature of love," they said.
Spelling out the challenges ahead, they spoke of their concerns about mental health and the growing threat of hunger, particularly among children, and homelessness, as well as the "concealed" problem of domestic violence, and the risk to Britain's economy.
The poor, elderly and isolated are "especially vulnerable", the Archbishops said, but they also voiced concerns for small companies and the huge numbers they employ, especially in the hospitality industry.
"It will be for us and others to encourage the banks, who received such help in 2009, to be equally merciful to others as the nation was to them. St Matthew 18:23-35 seems highly relevant," they said.
Striking an optimistic tone, the Archbishops urged parishes to draw upon the Church's many existing resources in seeking to serve their communities during the pandemic.
"We are called to be responsible, but we are also called to resilience and prophetic speech," they said.
"We have the networks, long since mobilised, and the partnerships to serve especially the hungry and homeless. Our schools are a particular treasure.
"However, there will also be a sense of tiredness; the weariness which comes with dealing with yet another threat and difficulty. To face this, we must continue to encourage one another and bear one another's burdens."
They added: "Most of all we need to draw close to Christ, and continue to offer the hope and stability of the gospel. It is this gospel joy, even in the darkest times, that alone can help us through this crisis, bringing hope and an eternal perspective to the very pressing trials of the moment."