Weddings and funerals can still take place in Church of England buildings – but normal church services have been “suspended until further notice”.
In a joint letter, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, Justin Welby and John Sentamu respectively, said the coronavirus pandemic had made it “necessary to put public services on hold”.
They said that churches would remain open for prayer “where practical” and as long as worshippers observed social distancing guidelines.
But far from having to “shut up shop”, the Church of England said it must face the challenge by becoming a radically different kind of church rooted in prayer and serving others.
The archbishops wrote: “This is a defining moment for the Church of England. Are we truly a church for all, or just the church for ourselves?
“We urge you sisters and brothers to become a different sort of church in these coming months: hopeful and rooted in the offering of prayer and praise and overflowing in service to the world.”
They added: “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.”
Picture of St Mary’s in Bowdon: Stephen Entwistle