Archbishop of Canterbury to lead Easter Sunday worship from Canterbury Cathedral as churches and cathedrals prepare to celebrate Easter


As churches and Cathedrals around the country prepare to celebrate Easter, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, will for the first time give his Easter sermon across BBC television, local and national radio, and the Church of England digital platforms.
Archbishop Justin Welby standing outside Lambeth Palace

A service will premiere on the Church of England websiteFacebook and YouTube channels at 9am while viewers of BBC One will be able to tune in to a live Eucharist from Canterbury at 10am.

Easter Sunday will also feature a special service of the Word across 39 BBC local radio stations at 8am followed by a live Eucharistic service on BBC Radio 4 from Canterbury at 8.10am – both led by the Archbishop. BBC Radio 3 will then come live from Manchester Cathedral for a Festal Choral Evensong at 3pm.

Archbishop Justin’s Easter sermon proclaims the resurrection as the turning point of history. In raising Jesus to new life, he will say, God makes a “lie” of death.

He will call every Christian to be not only “disciples of private hope” but “Good news and change for the world.”

Because of the risen Jesus we have “resilient and strong hope in the face of death” and know joy in the truth that it is the God of life, not the lie of death, who has the last word.

Following updates to Government guidance the previous week, some Cathedral and church choirs will sing to a live congregation for the first time since Christmas, while thousands of services will also be streamed into people’s homes - continuing the trend which has seen millions of people worshipping online during lockdown.

To help Instagram users explore the Easter story, the Church of England is launching a new filter that allows users to take an Easter quiz and share it with their followers.

Search for @thechurchofengland on Instagram to try the filter for yourself.

Stephen Cottrell standing outside York Minster

On Maundy Thursday the Church of England’s digital channels will feature worship led from the home of Revd Adam Beaumont, in the Diocese of Bristol, who will be leading worship with his family. On Good Friday a service will be led by Suzanne Matthews, a lay leader in the Diocese of Liverpool, and her family.

Elsewhere, the Archbishop of York, Stephen Cottrell will preach and preside in a Eucharist service from York Minster at 11am. This will be his first Easter as Archbishop where he will reflect on how unexpected Easter always is.  

The service will be live streamed with a limited number of congregation present in the Minster through a free ticketing system. He has also recorded a message for the Diocese of York’s Moment of Reflection.

Peter Hancock will preach via video on what will be his final Easter as Bishop of Bath and Wells before taking early retirement at the end of May as he continues in his recovery from acute myeloid leukaemia.

In an Easter Message, Bishop Peter will say the nation has “a new spirit of people coming together and working together.” Despite sufferings, he will add, there had also been “wonderful signs of hope too.”

Across the country many bishops will focus on societal renewal following the pandemic.

The Bishop of Worcester, John Inge’s Easter message will note: "Easter can give hope in the face of the terrible death toll of this last year – and in the face of our own mortality – in a way that nothing else can. 

“Yet many people find resurrection difficult to believe. As a former scientist, I don’t."

The Bishop of Truro, Philip Mountstephen will say: "The pandemic humbled us and brought us up short. We were taught to sit still and step back. It’s a key lesson for all humanity. 

“We must learn to live more lightly and lovingly on this earth. And to do so would be a true sign of resurrection life. And it is resurrection we need: going forward to something better; not resuscitation that takes us back to where we were before."

Lincoln Cathedral is shown bathed in red lights

The Bishop of Barking, Peter Hill, who currently leads the Diocese of Chelmsford, will also reflect in his Easter message the strains of Covid-19. “There are times in all our lives when we feel despondent, broken, and defeated or simply apathetic," he will say. Adding: "That has been the experience of so many this past year. 

“And that is exactly how the disciples felt after the crucifixion, but it was not the end for Jesus rose from the dead. God still breaks out with new life."

The theme of positive aspects that have appeared in response to the pandemic will be referenced by the Bishop of Southwark, Christopher Chessun. 

His Easter Message at Southwark Cathedral will speak of  the “deeper joy that comes from service and caring for others.”

Among Holy Week services broadcast by cathedrals, Gloucester Cathedral will live stream a service which focuses on how to make your own Easter garden.

Lincoln Cathedral will be lighting up for Holy Week, bathing its historic building in traditional liturgical colours to mark the passion and the resurrection.

The cathedral will be turned white on Maundy Thursday, before going red to represent the Passion of Jesus on Good Friday. It will become gold on Easter Day to celebrate the transforming effect of the resurrection and the hope offered by new life.

Winchester Cathedral Quire

St Edmundsbury Cathedral has produced a set of music videos to resource churches in its diocese for a second Easter with lockdown restrictions. It has produced videos of hymns, worship songs and anthems working with The InHarmony Project and the Cantus Firmus Trust.

Other bishops have drawn on themes of the natural world for their Easter Message.

Writing about gardening for the Eastern Daily Press, the Bishop of Norwich Graham Usher, who will lead the Church of England’s Environment Programme from the summer, said: “Easter offers us hope and joy and peace. 

“That’s its bright message we can enjoy as we see our gardens and parks blossom with abundant life.”

The Bishop of Lancaster, Dr Jill Duff, filmed her Easter message in the Wrea Green Remembrance Wood in Lancaster. 

Having been invited to bless the wood by the local vicar, Bishop Jill will say: "On this second Easter of a global pandemic, in the midst of suffering and pain, may heaven draw near.

"May you catch a glimpse of that beautiful image of heaven where there are trees with leaves for the healing of the nations."

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