GODLINESS is next to cleanliness, the nation’s two most senior clerics have suggested, and are urging the public to say the Lord’s Prayer when they wash their hands as part of the national call to prayer to beat coronavirus.
Writing in Tuesday’s Daily Mail, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York suggest that, at least for the next seven days, reciting the prayer should be part of people’s hygiene routine, pointing out that it takes longer than the 20 seconds recommended to wash hands thoroughly.
Announcing the National Day of Prayer and Action for the coming Sunday, they urge all to be “good Samaritans”, looking out for friends and neighbours during the crisis.
They write: “We are good in this country at holding our nerve and steadying one another. But a pandemic is something else; you can’t touch the virus, see it or even know where it is. . .
“The effect of the virus could drive us apart. To some extent it must do. When someone we care for has it or is at risk, they must be isolated. That is particularly so for older people and the most vulnerable, the ones by whose beds we want to sit and hold their hands, expressing our love with touch. As in epidemics throughout history the fear we feel disturbs us very deeply, and dread comes upon us.”
The answer to conquering this fear, the Archbishops say, is the love that we receive.
“Above all we must look after one another, knowing that, in an uncertain world with a new virus, we are best protected with honesty, compassion, and care. . .
“We can find hope and courage in the goodly and wholesome spirit that is in so many ways common to all human beings, whether they are people of faith or none.
The Archbishops suggest phoning someone who is isolated and vulnerable; buying an extra item to donate to a food bank; or volunteering to work in a foodbank, night shelter, or other community service.
They add: “There is one more thing that everyone can do, something we would expect from two Archbishops. We make no apology for saying ‘Pray!’ Even if you scarcely can imagine how, pray! Pray for yourself, for those you love, for friends and neighbours.”
They also urge people to read Psalm 23 aloud: “The Shepherd’s song is about real life, not an idealised picture.”