Archbishops call for national daily prayer to remember pandemic dead

Church leaders urge people to join daily ‘prayer for the nation’ and reflect on ‘enormity’ of pandemic after Britain hits ‘terrible milestone’ of 100,000 Covid deaths

  • Archbishops of Canterbury and York call for a ‘prayer for the nation’ in February
  • Justin Welby and Stephen Cottrell urged Britons to remember  those who died
  • Their message comes as the figure for coronavirus deaths passed 100,000

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York are urging Britons to join in a daily ‘prayer for the nation’ following the ‘terrible milestone’ of more than 100,000 Covid-19 deaths.

In an open letter to the country, the Most Rev Justin Welby and the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell invited people to ‘reflect on the enormity of this pandemic’.

Mr Welby and Mr Cottrell called on people, regardless of whether they have faith or not, to join in a daily prayer at 6pm every day from February 1.

They wrote: ‘One hundred thousand isn’t just an abstract figure. Each number is a person: someone we loved and someone who loved us.

‘We also believe that each of these people was known to God and cherished by God.’

The archbishops’ message comes as the Government’s figure for coronavirus deaths passed 100,000 – although separate data published by statistics agencies puts the toll at 115,000.

In an open letter to the country, the Most Rev Justin Welby (pictured) and the Most Rev Stephen Cottrell invited people to ‘reflect on the enormity of this pandemic’

The Church of England published the prayer for those who mourn on Twitter

Their letter acknowledges the fear that people may be feeling and that poorer communities, minority ethnic communities and those with disabilities have been ‘disproportionately’ affected by the pandemic and ‘cry out for the healing of these inequalities’.

Urging people to follow government guidelines and advice, the archbishops added: ‘We show our commitment, care and love for one another by ensuring we do everything we can to stop the virus spreading.’

Their letter continued: ‘None of this is easy. Very many of us are experiencing isolation, loneliness, anxiety and despondency like never before. Many people have lost their livelihoods. Our economy struggles.

‘Also, the necessary restrictions we live with have also prevented us from being alongside loved ones as they died, or even at their graveside. All grief profoundly affects us, but this pandemic grief is so hard.

‘Therefore, we need to support each other. We do this by following the guidelines. But we also do it by reaching out to each other with care and kindness.

‘One thing we can all do is pray. We hope it is some consolation to know that the church prays for the life of our nation every day.

‘Whether you’re someone of faith, or not, we invite you to call on God in prayer. Starting on February 1 we invite you to set aside time every evening to pray, particularly at 6pm each day.

‘More than ever, this is a time when we need to love each other. Prayer is an expression of love.’

The archbishops described NHS and social care staff as ‘a blessing and lifeline for our nation’.

‘We are grateful for the service given in local communities by clergy, other frontline workers and so many good neighbours,’ they wrote.

‘We are grateful for the hope of the vaccine. It is a testimony to the God-given wisdom and gifts of scientists and researchers. We urge everyone to take the vaccine as soon as it is offered to you.’

The archbishops emphasised their ‘Christian hope’, concluding: ‘Death doesn’t have the last word. In God’s Kingdom every tear will be wiped away.’

Resources to help the call to prayer for the nation will be made available at: www.churchofengland.org/resources/call-prayer-nation.

Full text of the letter from the Archbishops to the nation 

Dear friends,  

As we reach the terrible milestone of 100,000 deaths from COVID-19, we invite everyone in our nation to pause as we reflect on the enormity of this pandemic.

100,000 isn’t just an abstract figure. Each number is a person: someone we loved and someone who loved us. We also believe that each of these people was known to God and cherished by God.

We write to you then in consolation, but also in encouragement, and ultimately in the hope of Jesus Christ. The God who comes to us in Jesus knew grief and suffering himself. On the cross, Jesus shares the weight of our sadness.

We therefore encourage everyone who is feeling scared, or lost or isolated to cast their fears on God. We also know that poorer communities, minority ethnic communities and those living with disabilities have been afflicted disproportionately and cry out for the healing of these inequalities. During this pandemic, we encourage everyone to do all they can to live within the guidelines and constraints given by government following the advice of the Chief Medical Officer and Chief Scientific Adviser. We show our commitment, care and love for one another by ensuring we do everything we can to stop the virus spreading.

None of this is easy. Very many of us are experiencing isolation, loneliness, anxiety and despondency like never before. Many people have lost their livelihoods. Our economy struggles. Also, the necessary restrictions we live with have also prevented us from being alongside loved ones as they died, or even at their graveside. All grief profoundly affects us, but this pandemic grief is so hard.

Therefore, we need to support each other. We do this by following the guidelines. But we also do it by reaching out to each other with care and kindness.

One thing we can all do is pray. We hope it is some consolation to know that the church prays for the life of our nation every day. Whether you’re someone of faith, or not, we invite you to call on God in prayer. Starting on 1 February we invite you to set aside time every evening to pray, particularly at 6pm each day. More than ever, this is a time when we need to love each other. Prayer is an expression of love. A number of resources will be made available on our website.

Finally, we write of hope. We are grateful for the hope we have because of the service of our NHS and social care staff. What a blessing and lifeline for our nation. We are grateful for the service given in local communities by clergy, other frontline workers and so many good neighbours. We are grateful for the hope of the vaccine. It is a testimony to the God-given wisdom and gifts of scientists and researchers. We urge everyone to take the vaccine as soon as it is offered to you.

Most of all, we have hope because God raised Jesus from the dead. This is the Christian hope that we will be celebrating at Easter. We live in the hope that we will share in his resurrection. Death doesn’t have the last word. In God’s kingdom, every tear will be wiped away.

Please be assured of our prayers. Please join us.

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