HUNDREDS of churches throughout Wiltshire have suspended their regular services until further notice because of the coronavirus health crisis.

The move by the county's 500 churches follows Government guidance around non-essential contact and social distancing.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York issued advice that public worship for the Church of England is suspended until further notice.

At St James’ Church in Trowbridge, the Rector, Dr Rob Thomas, said: “Following coronavirus guidance from our Bishops and Archbishops, we are holding no public services until further notice.

“Our focus continues to be on serving our community by regular prayer and practical help for those who are isolated or vulnerable.

“The church remains in regular use for prayers for those affected by the virus, especially the weak and the vulnerable, for those searching for a vaccine and for those who have to make difficult decisions.

“Whenever we can we’re making provision, in accordance with Government health guidance, for anyone to come in for quiet prayer."

“While we’re unable to meet for worship in the church, we’re putting in place ways to continue our worship and ministry online.

“Starting Sunday, March 22, we’re planning to become an eChurch. Our weekly service will be made available on video via the internet so that everyone can join in from their own homes.

“We have also set up a Facebook Group ‘Worship Space’ for people to share their thoughts and prayers.

“Our weekly toddlers music group Mini Melodies is continuing via an online feed on Facebook - with our Children and Families Worker Tom Bullock posting a new video each week covering different themes with songs to sing along to. This term’s theme was food.

“We will have regular art and craft post on our Toddlers Facebook Group and Tom and the team are also looking at ways we can support our other groups such Youth Fellowship teenagers and Holiday Club children.

“Various prayer groups and local learning groups are using technology, such as Zoom and Skype, to continue with online meetings from their own homes.

“We will be regularly updating our website and our Facebook page - - with latest news and information.