Church of England churches told to stay closed this Easter

The Archbishop of Canterbury has issued a message telling Church of England churches to keep their doors closed this Easter as the coronavirus lockdown continues.

In a video message, Justin Welby dismissed "strange" conspiracy theories circulating that the bishops of the Church of England have always wanted to close church doors.

But he said there were several reasons - "all of them positive" - why the Archbishops and bishops had decided that this was the best course of action during the pandemic. 

"The first is to set an example," he said. 

"The Government has said again and again, and every public health official in the country is saying, stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives. 

"It's a very simple message and it's a very ethical message. It's about looking after those who look after us, and it's about looking after the most vulnerable. 

"By closing the churches, we make a powerful symbol of the need to listen to that message." 

He went on to say that the church building was only a building, while it was the people of God who make the Church.

He said that the Church down through history had met in homes, while today's "wonders of technology" made it possible to be in touch with each other without venturing outside.

Referencing Matthew 18:20 - "For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them" - he said, "They don't even actually have to be physically gathered. Virtually gathered does very well indeed." 

He added: "Jesus is quite up to date on all this stuff." 

The Archbishop's message can be heard in full below: