COVID-19 Update – Incumbents, Parish Council Treasurers and Churchwardens – Application process for reopening church buildings and recommencing church activity released

14 May – Number 1

  • Application process for reopening church buildings and recommencing church activity released

Dear brothers and sisters,

Introduction

I was grateful for the opportunity to meet with so many of you via Zoom yesterday as we continue our journey of returning to face-to-face ministries in our parishes. All of our consideration is in the context that COVID-19 represents a continuing significant health risk and many people associated with our church or seeking ministry from our church are recognised to be more vulnerable to the virus than members of the wider community. Our attention to detail and commitment to compliance are of great importance.

Jesus gave to the disciples a new commandment – “Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” He called us to have great compassion and concern for our neighbours. He helped us understand that through love and loving service the grace of God is made known.

We are in a season where our actions in response to COVID-19 are a tangible expression of love. There are elements of sacrifice and service as well as commitment to the health and wellbeing of those around us.

Public Health Orders

The Public Health Orders in NSW are gradually changing enabling us to have gatherings in our church buildings or on church land of up to 10 worshippers. Accordingly, I am inviting parishes to apply for permission to use church buildings for Church Services (including the Holy Communion), study/growth groups and recording or live-streaming worship. An application is required for each church building that you are seeking to use.

Our return to using church buildings in this way must be attentive to the health and safety needs of all involved and must be compliant with the NSW Government directives. Australia remains vulnerable to this pandemic and we cannot become complacent. Either the NSW Government or the Diocese may change direction in response to emerging issues and our understanding of the risk posed by COVID-19.

Reopening Framework

The Diocesan Office staff have developed a framework to assist us to open church buildings in a way that addressed key risks.

This framework includes
• Fact Sheets which you must read and consider carefully; and
• An Application to the Bishop to Re-open the Church Building

The following Fact Sheets are linked in this email and can also be found on the Diocesan Website:

As part of the application process, the Incumbent (or Locum) and a Churchwarden are asked to indicate the parish’s commitment to comply with the requirements outlined in the Fact Sheets. A similar process will need to be followed for any new fact sheet or when a fact sheet is replaced.

The Diocesan Office staff have also provided some additional supporting information to assist parishes which can be found on the Diocesan Website:

There have already been some changes to information provided yesterday in the light of further risk assessment and available information –

  • The disinfectant to be used will need to be ‘hospitable grade’. The Fact Sheet on Cleaning provides information about suitable products
  • Church buildings can only be opened at present for organised activities and events. It is not possible to open church buildings for private or individual prayer.
  • A separate application will not be required for weekday services and using the church buildings for recording worship.

Application 

The re-opening application form can be found on the Diocesan Website.

When it is completed it should be signed by the Incumbent and a Churchwarden and returned via email.

The approval response will take onto account the ability of your parish to comply with all the measures outlined in the relevant Fact Sheets. Your application to re-open a church building and commence a ministry will be considered as promptly as possible. This will occur during the Diocesan Office’s normal business hours.

Please note

There is no requirement for a parish to open its church buildings at this time. In each parish the Incumbent and the Churchwardens are required to reach agreement about re-opening and about ensuring compliance with the re-opening requirements.

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.

I will continue to be in contact with you by email promptly if an urgent issue arises. I will provide an update in relation to the steps of re-opening or emerging requirements each Tuesday.

Contact details

If you have any queries regarding the Re-opening Application Form, please 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.

Concluding comment

In undertaking this work 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 support.

With every blessing,

+Peter