In a joint letter, Archbishops Justin Welby and John Sentamu said it was now necessary to put public services on hold until further notice.
But they said that far from having to “shut up shop”, the Church of England must face the challenge by becoming a radically different kind of church rooted in prayer and serving others.
It comes after the Government announced unprecedented peacetime measures to try to control the spread of the virus, with restrictions on public gatherings, transport and working.
The Archbishops expressed the desire that church buildings may, where practical, remain open as places of prayer for the community, observing social distancing recommendations.
Today, Archbishop @JohnSentamu and I are calling @churchofengland to suspend public worship to help stem the spread of #coronavirus. We must be a radically different church for now – but one that’s hopeful, prayerful and committed to serving others: https://t.co/cU8ZQIdzcb
— Archbishop of Canterbury (@JustinWelby) March 17, 2020