CHURCHES across East Lothian are being urged to stop their services until further notice in light of the coronavirus outbreak.

A spokesperson for the Church of Scotland said on Tuesday: “The Scottish Government now advises that people should minimise social contact by avoiding crowded areas and large gatherings, including religious congregations, and smaller gatherings.

“The Church of Scotland now asks, in the strongest terms, that all gatherings for worship should cease until further notice.

“Other Scottish churches are taking similar actions. 

"This obviously includes Easter services. Some Presbyteries have already instructed this action. This will include, but not be restricted to: housegroups, meetings for youth work, and church cafes.

“It will still be possible for an individual to offer a livestream of a sermon and prayers.

“Church buildings can be kept open as a place for people to come and pray. Notices should be clearly displayed asking that visitors observe robust hand hygiene, including washing their hands on entry to the church.”

On weddings and funerals, the Church said that “sensitive conversations will need to take place” between those affected.

The Rev Alison McDonald, from St Mary’s Parish Church, Haddington, sent a message to her congregation after the Church of Scotland called for services to be cancelled.

She said weekly readings, prayers and reflections would be posted online and plans are being considered to open the church building for “personal prayer” as the coronavirus crisis continues.

The Scottish Episcopal Church (SEC) has also asked its clergy to cease church services.

The Most Rev Dr Mark Strange, Primus of the SEC, said: “This is a difficult time for many people; some are fearful for themselves or their relatives, while others want to know how to help stem the spread of the virus.

“Our guidance is given not just to address medical concerns but also with pastoral concern being uppermost in our hearts and minds, particularly the care of the vulnerable in our congregations and communities.”

Church buildings will be allowed to stay open for private prayer. The church will also deliver a video service of the Eucharist every Sunday through its website for those wanting to worship at home.

The Catholic Church has cancelled public Masses across Scotland from Thursday and they will not take place until further notice.

Masses will still be said in private in churches but not in front of parishioners; live streaming will be in place and available where possible.

Catholic churches themselves will not be closed completely to allow time for private prayer.