This Blessed Sacrament of Unity? Holy Communion, the Pandemic, and the Church of England

In: Journal of Empirical Theology
Leslie J. Francis Professor of Religions and Psychology, Centre for Educational Development, Appraisal and Research (CEDAR), The University of Warwick Coventry CV4 7AL UK

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Andrew Village Professor of Practical and Empirical Theology, York St John University York UK

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A major consequence of the pandemic for the Church of England was the decision of the Archbishops on 24 March 2020 to prevent the use of churches (even for the broadcasting of services by the clergy), and the consequent sudden trajectory into online worship streamed by clergy from their homes. On Easter Sunday the Archbishop of Canterbury exemplified the challenge confronting Anglican clergy by presiding for the nation from his kitchen table. This sudden change to online services may have highlighted differences in eucharistic practice within the Church of England, differentiating between those shaped in the Anglo-Catholic, Broad Church, and Evangelical traditions. This paper tests the thesis that during the initial days of lockdown this blessed sacrament of unity also embraced rich diversity among loyal Anglicans. Data provided by 3,286 laity and 1,353 clergy from the Coronavirus, Church & You Survey lend support for this thesis.

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