COVID-19 Update – Application processes will begin next week for further reopening church buildings, reopening opportunity (and similar activities) and for allowing hall hire

29 May – Number 1

  • Application processes will begin next week for further reopening church buildings, reopening opportunity (and similar activities) and for allowing hall hire.
  • Where a parish cannot resolve to reopen Sunday worship or resolves not to reopen for Sunday worship they should advise the Bishop in writing.
  • Please manage workloads carefully!

Dear brothers and sisters,

The NSW Premier has announced a relaxation of the rules around places of public worship with effect from 1 June 2020.

I want to acknowledge the leadership of Archbishop Glenn Davies in presenting the case for Anglicans in NSW. I also want to acknowledge the collegial working relationship among the NSW Diocesan Bishops on COVID19 matters.

Health and Safety is our paramount concern

Every process we have put in place is based in our commitment in Christ and our legal obligation to ensure the health and safety of clergy, church workers, parishioners, and beneficiaries of the ministries we exercise as well as the broader community.

In the meeting with NSW Diocesan Bishops this week, the Public Health Official guiding Multicultural NSW emphasised that the gathering of adults remained a matter of significant transmission concern.

Any expansion of parish-based ministries requires formal approval

Thank you for your careful engagement with Diocesan Office staff in the approval processes.

They have been preparing for the move to step 2 in the state COVID19 recovery processes.

Next week, the application forms for reopening church buildings, opportunity shops, hall hire and similar activities will be released. A reminder that no activity can commence or be expanded without formal approval.

With a smooth process some parishes will be reopening for Sunday worship on Sunday 7 June and more parishes will be reopening for Sunday worship on Sunday 14 June.

There is a growing community expectation that church buildings will be reopened. There are good reasons why a parish may form a view that even reopening for 50 people will be too complex or that the calculation of capacity around 4 sqm per person means that using the church building is impossible.

I ask that where the Incumbent and the Churchwardens cannot reach agreement about reopening Sunday worship or where the Incumbent and Churchwardens reach agreement not to reopen for Sunday worship they advise me in writing.

There are many things that you can do now in preparation for your application –

  • If possible, people attending church will be asked to enter and exit by different doors
  • Church service times need to be structured so that the building can be cleaned and disinfected between services and the car park fully cleared
  • There will need to be a clear indication of the capacity of each building based in the 4 sqm rule applied to the space in which the congregation sits (not in a number of church buildings the capacity is less than 50) Note also that the maximum of 50 people applies across the whole site
  • In planning seating, people who are not of the same household must be seated in such a way that they do not need to “step over” another person in order to enter or leave their seat/pew,
  • Explore how music will be led, if there is to be music

The fact sheets and resources will be updated when the new application process opens.

Maintain an online presence

We are being encouraged strongly to maintain our online presence. There may be significant merit in parishes drawing on the online worship presence of other parishes or the Cathedral.

Please manage workloads

The changes bring additional work on clergy and laity as we continue to engage in mission and ministry in a virtual way as well resuming face-to-face ministries. Clergy are being encouraged to spend time in additional reading/training as they develop the resources to support parishioners and their community during the pandemic.

The normative ministry is 40 hours per week over 5 days for stipendiary clergy.

It is important that incumbents and churchwardens review the worship schedule, the online presence and expectations of increased pastoral support to keep a reasonable ministry balance in view. The COVID19 ministry environment will be with us for some considerable time. It will be a marathon and not a sprint.

Clergy who have particular difficulties with ministry loads or ministry planning are encouraged to initiate a conversation with the bishop for their area or with me.

Reopening Support

If you have any queries regarding re-opening please email or phone our Risk Officer Heidi Randle on 4926 3733.

In the event of an urgent matter you should ring Linda Wilson on 0410 457 621.

Reopening the Diocesan Office

The Diocesan Office staff are exploring the best way to move from being a virtual office to using 134 King Street again. This is most likely to take place in step 3.

Like every office we must look closely at what is possible while ensuring the safety and health of all involved.

Simply the cleaning and spacing requirements mean that it will be some time before face to face meetings resume in the office. We will continue to make a lot of use of Zoom.

Episcopal visits to parishes

Bishop Sonia, Bishop Charlie and I all miss the opportunity of being with parishes for worship, teaching and ministry on Sundays.

At this stage, we anticipate beginning these again in July.

Living in COVID19 world

Earlier this week I woke up with a scratchy throat and a sniffle. I’d hardly been around anyone and certainly not for any duration so I couldn’t see where I might have been in contact with any virus let alone COVID19.

Listening to the health advice I went off for a COVID19 test. The test came back negative and the symptoms have gone. There is a whole lot of story-telling about the test itself!

This morning I was able to go for a walk again. I’d isolated from symptoms until the symptoms went and the test result was back. It was nice to be out!

This week I found that I had put too many things in my diary and I haven’t allowed enough time to adapt to the changes that have already come.

It was good to meet with my supervisor on Tuesday to reflect on ministry in this COVID19 space!

I share these snippets with you as a companion on the way who as a fellow disciple is seeking to navigate lots of change. Sometimes successfully!

A significant family occasion and the easing of Victorian health regulations is allowing Nicki and I to take a few days break next week. Like many, I am uncertain about the travel, the accommodation and being away from home. These few days of rest will be good! I share this to encourage each of you to begin to imagine how you might be able to plan to embrace some recreative moments.

Final words

Friends, we are surrounded by the prayers of many people. Bishop Charlie and Bishop Sonia join with me and the Diocesan Office Staff in assuring you of our continuing support.

With every blessing,

+Peter