Turn to God instead of fear - Archbishop

The Archbishop of Canterbury

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, used his sermon for the Church of England's first national virtual service to call people to look outwards to the needs of others and remember "that life carries on". 

The service was filmed in the crypt chapel at Lambeth Palace and livestreamed via the Archbishop's Facebook page and 39 local BBC radio stations on Sunday morning. 

It was the first national online service to be held by the Church of England since it suspended public worship across its 16,000 churches. 

The broadcast coincided with Mothering Sunday in the UK, when many people were unable to celebrate with their mothers in person because of social distancing. 

It also coincided with a nationwide day of prayer and action joined by all of the major Christian denominations in the UK. 

Thanking people for tuning in "at this strange time in the life of our world", the Archbishop noted that this year's Mothering Sunday was "a strange one" in light of the restrictions on movement. 

He spoke of the nation being "torn between our need to keep life going" and "the fear and the imposed isolation that we face" as he said it was a good time to pray.

"Maybe this means this is a good Sunday for us to call our churches and our nation to prayer and action," he said. 

He continued by urging people to turn to God and think about how they could care for those around them, whether in person or virtually. 

"At difficult times we have a choice to focus on fear, on ourselves, on what we cannot do. Or we can turn to God and let God lead us into praying for the world and letting prayer flow into creative action," he said. 

"There is much to celebrate in our communities," he said, adding that the unusual circumstances were an opportunity "to listen to the voice of God's caring love for us" and "turn ourselves towards others". 

During the service, candles were lit for mothers and all those suffering because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The Archbishop explained that the service had taken place "with the absolute minimum number of staff and people necessary to carry it through". 

In a word of encouragement for people worshipping from their homes, he said: "Today we are separated in space but we are still united in worshipping together before the throne of God, our Saviour."