COVID-19 Update – Any use of a church building is by permission – permission for recording for streaming withdrawn

1 April — Number 1

  • Any use of a church building is by permission – permission for recording for streaming withdrawn
  • Pastoral Care visits in exceptional circumstances

I have been involved with discussions with the NSW Diocesan Bishops and also sought the views of my senior leadership team since the announcement on Sunday by the Prime Minister.

The Minister for Health in New South Wales has issued a public health order which requires “that a person must not, without reasonable excuse, leave the person’s place of residence.” He has further ordered “that a person must not participate in a gathering in a public place of more than 2 persons.”

The clear intent of the public health orders is for the population, as much as possible, to be at home.

The Minister has indicated that a reasonable excuse for leaving a person’s place of residence includes “a person who is a priest, minister of religion or member of a religious order going to the person’s place of worship or providing pastoral care to another person.”

Use of church buildings

The Public Health Emergency Operations Centre has indicated that a church may be considered a workplace but has advised “Where possible, people should work from home and conduct streaming services from home.”

Last week, the Archbishops of Canterbury and York wrote, “Staying at home and demonstrating solidarity with the rest of the country at this testing time, is, we believe, the right way of helping and ministering to our nation. Therefore, for a season, the centre for the liturgical life of the church must be the home, not the church building.”

I advise that permission to use church buildings and church grounds as venues for recording worship for streaming is withdrawn.

At this time a church building and grounds may only be used

  1. Only 5 people may be involved at a wedding – the member of the clergy, the couple and 2 witnesses. Those participating should adhere to social distancing guidelines (4m2 and 1.5m apart).
  2. Only 10 people may be involved in a funeral, the clergy plus 9 others. Those participating should adhere to social distancing guidelines (4m2 and 1.5m apart).
  3. Parishes involved in emergency food relief can continue to do this with strict social distancing. Hand sanitiser should be available for people who seek assistance and for the people assisting. This ministry should be limited to 2 people.
  4. A member of the clergy or a churchwarden may be present in a church building for security and urgent maintenance. No more than 2 people should be present. Church cleaning is not an urgent and should be deferred.
  5. A member of the clergy may use the church building for private prayer but are encouraged to establish a prayer space in their home.

Pastoral Care Visits

I have also been encouraged by the affirmation that people are being pastorally and spiritually cared for by phone, virtual connections and messaging. We must where possible use this approach for pastoral care.

There may be an occasional and urgent circumstance where the only way of exercising pastoral care is for the member of the clergy to meet with a person directly.

In making that decision, a member of the clergy must be conscious that they may be unaware if they have been exposed to COVID19 and may put people at risk. Further, clergy should not go from home to home but simply go from their home to the person they are caring for and then return to their residence.

Salutry warnings about gatherings

The impact of COVID19 on the Skagit Valley Chorale, like the information about its impact on cruise ship passengers is a warning about its virulence.

+Peter