UK church leaders have called for Sunday - celebrated as Mothering Sunday in the UK - to be marked as a 'National Day of Prayer and Action' over the coronavirus crisis.

Churches Together in England, a key ecumenical body which has a membership of 50 different church denominations included Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox and other Protestant churches, issued the call this week, asking people to pray and "light a candle in the windows of your homes as a visible symbol of the light of life, Jesus Christ, our source and hope in prayer".

"Whether you are continuing to worship as congregations or not, we have the great privilege and freedom to be able to call upon God, wherever we are, individually and corporately, for healing in our nation," said a statement on the CTE website. "We would pray for all in leadership at this time, making decisions about the containment of the COVID-19 virus, for those working in health and social care, and especially for the most vulnerable, whether elderly or those with underlying health conditions."

The statement, which was signed by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and Catholic Cardinal Vincent Nichols as well as other  church leaders, also drew attention to "wonderful acts of kindness" being shown across neighbourhoods.

"Alongside your prayers, take the opportunity to telephone or email someone who is isolated, buy some additional food for your local foodbank, or offer to deliver shopping for an elderly neighbour. We may not be able to touch physically, but we can make connections in so many other ways."

The statement said it was appropriate to hold the day on Mothering Sunday, which is a time of thankfulness for mothers but also a "very mixed day" for many.

"For some the remembrance is painful, and for others Mothering Sunday is a reminder of disappointment or loss. In many ways, this period under the shadow of the coronavirus will be prompting similarly diverse reactions and so it seems especially appropriate that the call to prayer is made this Sunday."

The call is being supported by the Evangelical Alliance, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, Cytûn and the Church of Scotland. 

Last week, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, released a statement urging people to "take some time to sit quietly and pray, letting God know about those things that are on our hearts and minds" and to pray for the physically vulnerable as well as healthcare workers and political leaders responding to the crisis.

He also suggested that one way to avoid being overwhelmed by fear was to turn our attention to "helping someone".

"Let’s remember that we are in this together. Let’s look after ourselves and our communities, gain courage from each other, and walk together in hope and faith."