For the first time since the second world war, Anglican Cathedrals in Sydney, Parramatta and Wollongong will lead public prayer for their cities as the effects of the pandemic grow.
Because of the social-distancing measures in force, ministers at each of the Cathedrals will lead prayer, in the open, on the steps of their buildings.
On January 31, Anglican Archbishop Glenn Davies called for sustained prayer for all involved in fighting the outbreak overseas and less than two months later the disease is spreading to a growing number of people in New South Wales.
Beginning on Thursday 19th March, the bells of each Cathedral will ring at midday, twice a week, on Mondays and Thursdays, for several minutes, calling people to stop and pray wherever they are.
Ministers will then lead brief prayers on the steps of each Cathedral. People are free to attend and join these public prayers at the Cathedrals but are encouraged to observe full ‘social distancing’.
“During the war years, St Michael’s church bell rang each day at noon, with the aim that people would come to the church and pray for those serving and for ‘the speedy termination of the war’,” said Canon Sandy Grant, senior minister of St Michael’s Cathedral, Wollongong. “Likewise, we encourage people worried about the fragility of life to call upon God to show us his mercy during this troubling time. We believe that with the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, we have a sure hope, even in the face of life-threatening illness.”
In Parramatta, the Cathedral bells will ring out across the city mall, followed by prayer.
“There will be prayers for our cities, for medical staff, for health administrators, scientific researchers, other public servants, and our parliamentary leaders," said the Rev. David Ould, Senior Associate Minister of St John’s Cathedral, Parramatta. "Above all, we will ask for God to comfort those who are anxious, those who have fallen ill, and those who are bereaved.”
At St Andrew's Cathedral in the city, the Dean of Sydney, Kanishka Raffel said prayer was part of the life of the cathedral, but especially so now.
"We pray regularly for the life and welfare of the City of Sydney at the Cathedral. People come into the Cathedral every day to spend time in quiet personal prayer. In this season of national turmoil as a result of coronavirus, we want to invite all people to pray and, twice weekly at noon, to gather on the steps of the Cathedral in public prayer." Dean Raffel said.
"We’re asking God to protect the city not only from the disease but from fear and selfishness; and to strengthen and help those caring for the sick, to provide for the most vulnerable and to give success to those seeking a cure. We believe God not only hears our prayers but uses people, including doctors and our leaders, to provide for us. They need our prayers and thanks. Most of all we want to call people to remember Jesus’ invitation to turn to him, with all our weariness and burdens, to find the rest that only he can provide.