Corona Virus Update – Places of public Worship in the Diocese to be closed except for small weddings and small funerals

23 March – Number 2

Replacing 23 March – Number 1

Dear colleagues,

Bishops Sonia and Charlie join with me in giving thanks to God for all of you; your tenacity and resilience.

We are aware aware of the mutual encouragement that is occuring. I It has been good for us to hear of your prayers and to pray for you.

I advise that –

  • Places of public Worship in the Diocese to be closed except for small weddings and small funerals
  • A very limited number of staff members may be present to film for a streamed order of worship unless a moderately satisfactory alternative can be found
  • Church leaders can be exemplars to the community

The NSW Minister for Health has made a Public Health (COVID-19 Places of Social Gathering) Order 2020 under the Public Health Act 2010. The requirements are a matter of law.

  • Under clause 5(1)(h) of the order the Minister has directed that places of public public worship must not be open to members of the public except for the purposes of conducting wedding services or funeral services.
  • A place of public worship has been defined as a building or place used for the purpose of religious worship by a congregation or religious group, whether or not the building or place is also used for counselling, social events, instruction or religious training.
  • There is no permission for the public services of baptism.

A wedding or funeral service must comply with the social distancing requirements. Those participating should adhere to social distancing guidelines (4m2 and 1.5m apart). In order to satisfy this requirement,No more than twenty (20) people including the officiant and musician may be present. There is an opportunity for a small, simple service now with a more fullsome celebration at some time in the future.

Baptisms should be deferred unless it is an emergency baptism. These normally occur in a hospital.

The General Secretary of General Synod has advised that, “It is generally accepted that churches are closed and not available to be open to the public for services or private prayer.”

There is a question about staff being present in a place of worship. Both the Archbishop of Sydney and the General Secretary provide some assurance that minimal staffing may be present for some ministry purposes.

In making a decision about using a church building it is important for us to be exemplars to the community – both in how we undertake a ministry and in any visual depiction of it.

  • The maximum who should be present in a church building for this ministry is 4 people (eg clergy,  musician and a videographer).
  • The requirements of social distancing must be followed.
  • No one who is unwell should be present.
  • It is important that there is no unnessary travel on the part of anyone involved in this ministry.

We have stepped back from filming in or streaming from the Cathedral.

Recognising that this may change at short notice –

  • It is permissable to enable the streaming of prayer and worship to film in church if you cannot find a moderately satisfactory alternative, like filming from home.
  • A member of the clergy or a churchwarden may be present in a church building to ensure its security and to faciliate urgent maintenance.
  • It is permissible for a member of the clergy to be present for a service of the Holy Communion/the Eucharist or to pray the Daily Offices. The service cannot be open to the public. The public can be advised that prayers have been offered.

In this Diocese, we have directed all groups to cease unless they are meeting virtually.

My strong encouragement remains for people to be in contact and praying by phone and message.

+Peter