The Church of England has begun one of the most important weeks in the Christian calendar with a virtual Palm Sunday service led by the Bishop of Manchester.
Churches across the country are continuing to broadcast services digitally in the lead-up to Easter, with more than 1,000 livestreams taking place on a regular basis.
The Palm Sunday service was the third to be broadcast on national Church of England channels since the suspension of public worship in church buildings due to the coronavius outbreak.
A national service broadcast by the Archbishop of Canterbury last week, which also featured on BBC Radio 4 and local radio stations, attracted around five million listeners and viewers.
— Archbishop of Canterbury (@JustinWelby) April 5, 2020
On Sunday, the Bishop of Manchester, David Walker, marked the start of Holy Week and Easter with a sermon from his home in Salford.
During the service, he spoke of the support and comfort being drawn from events, such as virtual church services, and campaigns like the Clap For Carers to thank NHS workers.
He said: “In this time of social, or more accurately physical, distancing, the ways in which we can come together matter even more.
“It wasn’t only our health workers who took strength from that recent evening when so many emerged from their front doors to offer a round of applause.
“Each might only have been able to see or hear at most a handful of others, but everyone knew that this was something huge – a mighty crowd.”
Palm Sunday is the start of the most solemn week of the Christian calendar, when events leading up to the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ are commemorated.
Today is #PalmSunday, when Jesus arrived in Jerusalem to crowds and cheers.
— The Church of England (@churchofengland) April 5, 2020
At York Minster, worship and prayers for Holy Week and Easter will be entirely digital for the first time in the cathedral’s 800-year history.
A new series of audio mini-services will be released to mark the important days throughout the week, including readings, prayers and music and a special video message from the Dean of York, Dr Jonathan Frost, on Easter Day.
Dr Frost said: “Confined to our homes as we seek to stay safe, it is to box-sets or drama series to which many of us will turn. A good story can draw us in, reframe our perspective and open up new horizons.
“The true story of the last days of Jesus of Nazareth can do the same.”