Churches across Brighton and Hove were shut today on the most important date in the Christian calendar because of the coronavirus restrictions.
And would-be visitors to Brighton and Hove – where tourism and hospitality account for a significant slice of the local economy – were encouraged to stay away once again.
One Church of England vicar, Father Andrew Woodward, said: “It is an Easter like none we have known.”
But a number of churches have been live streaming services and using social media such as Facebook – dubbed Faithbook by some – to reach people in their congregations.
The Roman Catholic Bishop of Arundel and Brighton Richard Moth said that Easter was the most important day in the year but added: “Our celebration of this greatest of days is more difficult this year.
“We could not gather for the Easter vigil and it is not possible to gather for mass.
“However, the great liturgies of this day have celebrated and many have joined in them through live streaming.
“But perhaps our joy is muted by the presence of coronavirus, touching the lives of so many across our world.
“For great numbers this Easter will be marked by the loss of a loved one and any sense of celebration will be especially difficult. My prayers are very particularly with those who are bereaved.”
But the bishop added: “May the joy of this Easter rise in the hearts of each and every one of us bringing new light and hope to all around us.”
He said: “While we will not be with our church communities physically, we can still unite with them spiritually, online.”
Father Andrew Woodward, vicar of St Mary’s Kemp Town, said: “Sadly, it is an Easter like none we have known.
“Our worship of God and our care for each other continue without interruption but they cannot safely be done in our buildings in the present circumstances.
“We regret having to shut our church and hall and cancel our services and activities because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“But we know that this is necessary to keep safe the members of our community and all the NHS staff, essential service providers and volunteers who are risking their lives to save and serve others.
“We have our own team of volunteers helping people in need. If you or someone you know needs assistance in obtaining supplies or other support, please phone us on 01273 698601.
“We pray for the sick and the dying, for those who mourn and for all who care for those in distress.
“We treasure the many acts of anonymous kindness, we give thanks for our renewed appreciation of simple things and we plan joyfully for the time when we can again welcome everyone, friends and newcomers alike, to St Mary’s.
“Above all, and especially at Easter, we look forward in hope to the dispelling of the darkness and our Lord’s certain promise of new life.”
The Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner, whose diocese includes Brighton and Hove, said that he hoped the rainbow pictures drawn and coloured by children would be more than a memory. He said: “I hope it will unlock a powerful story for life beyond coronavirus.
“In the Jewish and Christian traditions, the rainbow comes from the story of Noah’s flood and the gift of peace, represented by an olive branch, that comes as a sign of recovery after terrible destruction.
“Recovery and an unshakeable sense of hope for the future is also the Christian message of Easter Sunday, when Jesus rises from death.
“The destructive power of death and hatred is reversed by the power of love and new life.”
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