While Mass is being livestreamed from Catholic churches, Anglican bishops closed their church buildings even to clergy. One distinguished Anglican bishop believes this may mark a decisive point in the retreat of the Church of England from the public sphere to the private realm
Peter Hennessy wrote in his column last week that future generations will speak of British institutions “BC” and “AC” (before and after coronavirus): parliament, higher education, commerce, criminal justice, the NHS – the list is endless. What will this new defining midpoint mean for the Churches in Britain, in particular the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church?
What was striking about the tearful appeal by Lorraine, a London bus driver, for her life to be taken seriously enough for PPE to be provided and people not to use her bus needlessly, was that she also said: “I’m proud to drive a London bus. I’m proud to do my job.”
Those to whom the Churches’ witness is deeply important – lay members and clergy – might use different words but have much the same to say. Their calling as lay Christians or as priests is deeply important to them, but many in the CofE feel like Lorraine, let down by the official response. The Anglican bishops chose to go beyond government advice and declare church buildings closed not only for church services but for private prayer or even for clergy to livestream worship. While Mass is being livestreamed from Catholic churches, Anglican clergy have had to do so from their homes. Not much sign of ecumenical decision-making at this midpoint.