Church services halted after change to Government guidance

(Photo: Pexels/Brett Sayles)

Churches are following the updated guidance from the Government by suspending services for the timebeing over the coronavirus pandemic.

The Government on Monday told people to avoid large gatherings, with health secretary Matt Hancock later telling the Commons that the guidance applies to religious gatherings. 

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York have told Church of England parishes to find "new ways" of serving everyone.  In a joint letter they added that although churches should suspend services, they should try to stay open for private prayer.

"Being a part of the Church of England is going to look very different in the days ahead. Our life is going to be less characterised by attendance at church on Sunday, and more characterised by the prayer and service we offer each day," they wrote.

"We may not be able to pray with people in the ways that we are used to, but we can certainly pray for people. And we can certainly offer practical care and support." 

The Methodist Church said it was "with sadness" that it was recommending that services be suspended, although it too is asking churches to consider keeping their doors open for those who want to come in for prayer. 

"We would encourage people who lead services to think about how worship might be offered in different ways, including online and using worship at home sheets," they wrote.

"During this incredibly difficult time when people might want to spend time in prayer in their Methodist Church. Local trustees should consider whether it is possible to open up their churches to enable people to come and pray or sit quietly, perhaps offering prayer stations as a point of reflection with precautions around physical distancing." 

The suspension of activities extends to lunch clubs, after school clubs, playgroups, fellowship groups and church council meetings. 

The updated guidance states: "Remember that the Methodist Church is wider than Britain We are learning from our sisters and brothers around the world who are dealing with a difficult and uncertain situation and we would ask that you hold them in prayer, particularly those in affected areas." 

Jude Levermore, Head of Mission, and Paul Wood, Interim Director of the Ministries Team, said the months ahead would be a "marathon and not a sprint". 

"Here at Methodist Church House we are working hard to support you all in mission and ministry to fulfil your calling," they said.

"We wanted to say how grateful we are for the way you have responded to the challenges of these current times. We have seen so many of you going the extra mile in producing web based worship, in sharing resources, and in building one another up.

"This last Sunday we saw hundreds of examples across the Connexion of true connexionalism and we are so encouraged. This will be a marathon and not a sprint, we are committed to serving you as you serve the world, take care of yourselves and please feel free to make contact if we can offer more, or you spot gaps that you might have ideas on filling."

The Baptist Union of Great Britain said it was "urging churches to follow Government advice" and suspend services and weekly gatherings. 

"We too recognise the importance of staying connected, particularly during such an unprecedented situation. Hebrews 10.24-25 seems both apt and a particular challenge at the present time," it said.