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Guidance from the Church of England

Latest information from St Thomas Church - 17th March 2020 - Coronavirus

Dear Church,

Following the government's advice yesterday, we have decided that all our groups and meetings - including home groups, midweek groups in the church hall, and Sunday services - will now be cancelled. This also accords with advice from the Archbishops today, urging that public worship should be suspended. We don't know how long this will continue, but it could be for months to come.

But we are still a church! We still have our parts to play as members of the Body of Christ, in supporting one another and in worshipping God. This will look quite different over what will be a very strange and sometimes upsetting time. It's hard to predict exactly how our lives will change, but a few things we certainly want to ensure:

- That people are cared for - Maya James is collating a list of everyone we know of: those who are part of the church family, come to church groups, members of the local community with whom we're in contact etc. We want to make sure that anyone in need is able to find help (delivering food, etc), and that we continue to be in touch with one another even when people are physically isolated. Please contact Maya (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) with any information about yourself or others.

- That our faith is encouraged - While we might not be able to meet physically, we are thinking through the ways in which we can continue to draw together in worship. We will look into live streaming or recording talks and other parts of our worship services; we will try to provide resources which we can follow together; and we will try to enable home groups to still 'connect', shared ideas for prayer etc. The daily Lent readings which many people have already been using may be one immediate way in which we can feel 'part of something' by reading the same Bible verses together each day.

As Stuart reminded me on Sunday, in places where the church is persecuted and sent 'underground', God often brings amazing growth through all the hardship. Let's pray that our faith will be strengthened and our church will grow in this time.

So, more will follow shortly in terms of how we can continue to support each other through this time.

Please can I encourage you not to disregard the advice we have all been given. We are called to love our neighbours, and in this situation that surely means doing all we can to protect one another - and especially the more vulnerable - from illness.

Let's continue to look to our great God in all of this. Colossians 3.1-4:
Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

God bless,

Rev. Alistair Rycroft
St Thomas' Church, York

"You will keep in perfect peace the one whose mind is stayed on You, who trusts in You." (Isaiah 26.3)



17th March 2020

Current advice from the Church of England:

The Archbishops of York and Canterbury advise that public worship in the Church of England is suspended until further notice, to comply with Government guidelines issued last night.

This will be a difficult moment for all of us; however, we have the opportunity to spread the word that for the time being, church is changing and not closing.

We are encouraged so far as possible to keep churches open and available for people to visit for times of prayer and reflection, while reminding people of the urgent need for appropriate hygiene while they do so.

More to follow as the situation develops.

13th March 2020 (Now superceded)

Dear all,

I attach a response I have written in the light of the Coronavirus situation, acting on government guidelines and those of the Church of England.  We are making some practical changes as you will see.

The situation and the advice is changing regularly, but until we are advised not to do so, our regular groups and Sunday services will continue - though, of course, you may choose not to come to gatherings. If you have new cough or temperature symptoms, please don't come to the service this Sunday.

Please do read the attached response, which I hope you will find encouraging. God bless,


Rev. Alistair Rycroft
St Thomas' Church, York

"You will keep in perfect peace the one whose mind is stayed on You, who trusts in You." (Isaiah 26.3)


Coronavirus – St Thomas’ Response, 13th March

The Practical Bit:

As has been clear from the government’s chief scientific adviser, it is highly likely that this virus will affect many of us. As we’ve just been reading in 1 Thessalonians, Paul prays, “may the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else.” In this situation, that means we must take seriously one another’s health and welfare, especially those who are most vulnerable.

According to advice from the government and the Church of England, here are some of the ways we will change what we are doing on Sundays:

  • We will all take seriously our personal hygiene, which is the best way of limiting the spread – where possible, we will make hand sanitizers available, and in all cases we urge regular handwashing.
  • We will make tissues available as people enter the church in order to catch sneezes/coughs.
  • We will urge no physical contact – especially hand-shaking, hugging and kissing.
  • We will not offer wine at communion, only bread (this is called ‘communion in one kind’).
  • We will not offer biscuits after the service, and will use disposable paper cups for tea and coffee.

We are carefully thinking about our midweek groups, and especially those where food and refreshments are served. There will be clear hygiene guidelines for all those leading groups (at church and in homes).

As you will know, we are all urged to self-isolate for seven days should we have any new cough or fever symptoms as of today. Please don’t come to church gatherings if you have symptoms.

Some people may choose not to come to church or midweek groups in order to protect their own health – this is a decision for individuals to take, and support will be given wherever possible.

For more details on health and national advice, go to NHS.uk and GOV.uk websites.

The Pastoral Bit:

We are ‘one body’, which means that our gatherings together are a hugely important part of our life as Christians. We will aim to continue to meet together physically until we are advised that we must not do so.

However, some people will need (or will choose) to self-isolate, and we want to support one another in every way we can – both practically and in encouraging each other in faith. Maya is going to be helping us to co-ordinate our response in such a way as to best support vulnerable, isolated or ill members of the community. This may include dropping off food or supplies, but also ensuring people are pastorally supported by phone etc. If you want to make contact with Maya about your own situation, or about any other vulnerable people you may be aware of (including outside the church community) to see how we can offer help and support, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

We will also be putting thought into how we can relay sermons or pray together even in times where we may not be able to gather in large groups. (If you think you can help technically, get in touch!)

Please don’t hesitate to contact me for pastoral support.

The Spiritual Bit:

We should be responding in a distinctive way to this health crisis. We should, as I’ve already outlined, be doing everything we can to protect and support one another as we seek to ‘love our neighbours as ourselves’. This means we should not be blasé.

But, more than that, we are able to see this threat to life and health very differently from those who do not know Jesus. How timely that last week’s sermon (1 Thessalonians 4.13 ff) was all about how those who die in Christ can be truly said only to ‘fall asleep’, for at Jesus’ return they will be raised to new and eternal life with him. If we see death in the same way as the rest of the world, we are missing the crucial part of our faith.

Hebrews 2.14-15 tells us that Jesus came “to free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death”. That is a word for today. We are able to live free from the fear of death, because we know that death no longer holds power over those who have eternal life in Jesus Christ.

Psalm 20 reminds us that “some trust in chariots, some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” There is a great temptation in this kind of crisis to fret and worry, to look to the quality of our health service or the strength of our economy to get us out of this mess. But our ultimate trust and hope must be in God. Certainly we can pray for wisdom for our leaders, for a miraculous suppression of or cure for the virus, for the protection of those we love, for we have a gracious and powerful God. But however this situation develops, let’s continue to trust in and depend on him, to worship him and give him praise, for he is our eternal saviour.


I am certainly very thankful to be part of a loving church family at this time. Let’s continue to pray for and support one another as we walk through this together.