March 18, 2019 / 3:34 PM / a month ago

Tea, prayers and Brexit: church to promote unity at cafe-style meetings

LONDON (Reuters) - British churchgoers will be encouraged to discuss Brexit over tea and prayers as the Church of England appeals for unity in the face of uncertainty and division over Britain’s decision to leave the European Union.

FILE PHOTO: A cup of tea and plate of biscuits are photographed in London June 6, 2012. REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett/File Photo

Britons voted 52-48 percent for Brexit in a referendum in 2016, and divisions among both politicians and the people of Britain have widened as Prime Minister Theresa May has struggled to unite the country around her plan for how to implement that vote.

The Church of England said it was encouraging parishes to hold “informal cafe-style meetings” on the weekend of March 30, Britain’s long-scheduled departure date, to encourage people to “get together and chat over a cup of tea and pray for our country and our future”.

It has also picked out Bible passages and written prayers to encourage unity in the face of Brexit uncertainty.

“A century from now the Church will be remembered for how it responded at this crucial moment in the life of our nation and country. Will we be those who worked to defuse tension and hostility?” Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, said in a statement.

Police have vowed to deal robustly with a rise in abuse of politicians as splits over Brexit have led to insult-slinging and threats of violence. A week before the 2016 vote, a Labour lawmaker was killed by a man obsessed with Nazis and extreme right-wing ideology.

The Muslim Council of Britain has said Brexit risks intensifying a “climate of suspicion and hostility” against Muslims, while the Board of Deputies of British Jews has said the government should listen to minority groups through the Brexit process.

The Church of England released a downloadable pack of suggested readings, a “prayer for the nation” and separate prayers for the UK parliament and European Union, as well as a list of “conversation starters”.

“Wherever people stand on Brexit, honour the integrity of their position,” the document says.

“Recognize that, for some there may be a deep sense of anxiety and loss – and for others, a sense of the game turning in their favour. Both may be valid.”

Reporting by Alistair Smout; Editing by Hugh Lawson

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