Churches around the world should immediately take advice from their country’s ministry of health about the suspension of public worship to help prevent the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, the convenor of the Anglican Communion’s Health Network has said.
The Anglican Communion is a family of 40 member churches, which are each autonomous and inter-dependent. No Church or body has authority over any other church, and the statement issued on Friday (27 March) is only advisory.
Some of the Anglican Communion’s 40 member churches have already suspended public worship at a provincial level; while others are leaving the decision to individual dioceses or parishes.
The Anglican Communion Health Network is convened by Dr Michael Beasley, the Bishop of Hertford in the Church of England. Bishop Michael is an epidemiologist. He previously served as Director of the Partnership for Child Development in the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial College, London.
In a statement issued by the Anglican Communion Office on Friday, Dr Beasley said: “As the COVID-19 pandemic develops around the world, official public health authorities are advising churches not to join together for worship and other gatherings and to worship remotely, staying in the home.
“This is crucial to prevent the spread of the virus, to save the lives of the most vulnerable and to protect health services from being overwhelmed by cases. It is the loving thing to do, even though painful.”
He added: “Where possible, church leaders can lead in worship remotely using the internet, radio or a call for prayer at a specific time. Single households can also pray and reflect on scripture together.
“Jesus said, ‘Be sure of this: I am with you always’ (Matthew 28:20) and in John 20:26 we read, ‘Though the doors were locked, Jesus stood among them and said “Peace be with you”’.
“Though we are apart, we can be together in spirit. And as we do that, let’s look forward to days when we shall again be able to meet as Christ’s Body gathered. What a celebration that will be!”