Justin Welby to lead first virtual Church of England service following coronavirus changes

The Archbishop of Canterbury will lead the Church of England's first virtual service since the suspension of public worship

The first virtual service since the Church of England announced the suspension of public worship over coronavirus is to be led by the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby.

The service will be broadcast nationwide on 39 local BBC radio stations at 9am on Sunday, as well as online via the Church of England home page and streamed from the Archbishop's Facebook page.

It was recorded live in the crypt chapel at Lambeth Palace, the Archbishop's official residence in London, and includes hymns sung by St Martin's Voices, one of the choirs of St Martin-in-the-Fields. 

The national broadcast is taking place after the Church of England updated its guidance on the coronavirus this week, telling churches to suspend public services for the timebeing. 

Churches across the country are making plans to stream acts of worship and share reflections online in light of the changes. 

It comes at a time when the Government is imposing increasingly stringent measures to address the coronavirus pandemic, with schools closing indefinitely from Friday. 

In a joint letter this week, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York said that far from having to "shut up shop", worship would continue but it would require a "different sort of church". 

In his address for Sunday's broadcast, the Archbishop will call on parishioners to look beyond themselves and serve others.

"In all of the current troubles, and they are very serious troubles, looking inwards will only reveal the limits of our own resources, and lead to deeper fear and selfishness," he will say. 

"Acting in love found from God in Jesus Christ will do the exact reverse. As we look out from ourselves in love, we can enable people to find the place of their nurture, not their historic place but a new place where they meet God and find his consolation.

"As we share our consolation the mother love of God will enfold them. As we love the poor, go and give to a foodbank, call on someone who is isolated, do their shopping, pray with and for them, from a distance, we will find that we are deeply consoled by our own gift of consolation."