COVID-19 Important Updates – Please make sure you have registered your parish as a COVIDSafe Business

COVID-19 – Important Updates

Dear sisters and brothers,

  • Please make sure you have registered your parish as a COVIDSafe Business
  • Rules for singing and administering communion remain unchanged
  • Parish Fairs and Market Days cannot be held

I draw to your attention this letter from the Chief Health Officer for New South Wales.

Naming our grief

Each day I am moved by the way clergy and lay leaders are ministering to people with tenderness and care.

It can be helpful for us to both find ways of naming our grief at the loss of practices that enable us to draw closer to God and to find ways of transcending that grief so that we can be an encouragement to one another.

Our confidence is in Christ and all that he has done for us. With the community of Thessalonica we hear the charge, “Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Th 5:11)

It appears that COVID-19 will be with us for some time and we need to find ways of being a blessing to one another as we traverse this strange land in which we now find ourselves.

I am conscious of the care and diligence of the public health officers who are seeking to balance a number of perspectives while seeking to ensure the safety of all people. Please hold them in your prayers.

Registering as a COVIDSafe Business

All places of worship must register their COVID-19 Safety plan. This process will need to be completed for each site and must be done by the person that is responsible for the COVIDSafe plan. In most cases this will be the Incumbent. However, if your Parish is without an Incumbent then the person completing the registration should either be the Locum (if in a long term appointment) or one of the Churchwardens must be nominated.

For clarification where your Parish has also taken steps to reopen multiple sites such as an Opportunity or other Retail space then your COVID-19 Safety plan will need to be registered separately.

The Anglican Diocese of Newcastle utilises the Safe Return to Church Framework and application process as it’s COVID-19 Safety plan. Only each site that has completed the application and received approval from the Bishop to reopen should complete this process.

The plan is to be registered through the following link and will require you to input the information that is relevant to your Parish  https://www.nsw.gov.au/register-your-business-as-covid-safe.

Registration does not involve uploading your plan. You should know how you access the Diocesan Website if asked for the full plan details. You should also have on site a printed copy of the material you have submitted together with a copy of the most current fact sheets.

Registration does require the identification of the ‘business’ (including ABN), location and the person responsible and to check three boxes.

To ensure compliance with the latest direction this action should be taken as a matter of urgency. Please contact Heidi Randle with any questions regarding this process.

Please let Heidi Randle (whs@newcastleanglican.org.au) know once you have registered each of your sites as a COVIDSafe business.

Group Singing or Chanting

The NSW Chief Health Officer, Dr Chant, writes, “Places of worship are high risk settings for COVID-19, based on the experience here and overseas, particularly when there is group singing. There have been several clusters of COVID-19 in New South Wales in recent weeks, including a cluster linked to a choir at a church and attendance at a variety of activities related to a funeral. Group singing or chanting is particularly high risk and should not take place at this time. This applies to both the congregation and the choir.”

Clergy should be pastorally sensitive but firm in guiding congregations in this regard. While filled with grief, it is an act of generous love for other members of the congregation. I suggest that congregation members be encouraged to silently read the words of a hymn that is played.

In keeping with Health advice, it is possible for a single singer or single woodwind player to be involved but the space between them and other people must be at least 3 metres at all times.

Distribution of Holy Communion

The only authorised means of distributing the Holy Communion in the Diocese is in one kind, that is the bread alone. Neither the chalice or individual cups are permitted for the distribution of the wine (either alcoholic or non-alcoholic).

This requirement is based on the health risks associated with the preparation of cups, the sharing of the chalice, and the orderly consumption of remaining wine as prescribed by the Book of Common Prayer.

It is important that the symbol of the cup is maintained. This means that the priest alone should prepare and drink from the chalice in a way that can be seen by the congregation.

Clergy should use the following alternative invitation to Holy Communion – “Draw near with faith, to feed on Christ in your hearts with thanksgiving”.

Parish staff returning to church sites

Information about the induction for staff returning to church sites will be available in the next few days on the Diocesan website.

Church fairs and market days

At this time the risks posed by complex events such as church fairs and market days is seen to be too high. Diocesan Office staff will continue to review these activities and provide advice when it appears safe to allow their return.

Grace and peace

+Peter