The Church of England attracted its largest ever "congregation" on Sunday as the suspension of public worship in churches due to the coronavirus led people to head online for a national virtual service.

The service, which was led by Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby and held in the crypt chapel of Lambeth Palace in London, is estimated to have been seen or heard by some five million people.

The figure included a million people watching via streaming on Facebook - and a further post reach of two million - along with two million listening through BBC radio. 

It compares with an average church attendance at Church of England churches of 871,000 each week in 2018. And the figure did not include the hundreds of churches and cathedrals that livestreamed their own services, some of which attracted thousands of visitors. 

A Church of England spokesperson said people across England followed the advice of archbishops to "reimagine" church.

"People from around the world joined the service in the chapel on social media and by radio," the spokesperson said in a statement. “Thousands of church-run social projects are responding to the newly created needs via foodbanks, homeless outreach and informal networks at a parish level. We’ll continue to look at innovative ways of being Church.”

The church has also reported that its 'Daily Prayer' app has more than quadrupled in usage in the first seven days since the suspension of public services were announced.