‘Resuming public gatherings’ – with Michael Stead

New guidelines have been released for churches in NSW. But they have been changed since the original ones we discussed on The Pastor’s Heart with Bishop Michael Stead a fortnight ago. …

Bishop Michael Stead is back for an extra discussion…. On social distancing and implementing the health department guidelines.”

– The latest from The Pastor’s Heart.

June 2020 Southern Cross now online

Southern Cross, the monthly magazine from the Diocese of Sydney, is being published online while churches are not meeting in person.

You can read – and download – this month’s issue here.

Queen’s Birthday Conference 2020 — free livestream — Monday 8th June

From Two Ways Ministries:

‘2020’ usually speaks of clear vision but this year ‘2020’ speaks of cancelled plans and a very uncertain vision for our future.

The self-assured confidence of our wealthy culture has been dealt a body blow that has finally raised big questions of life which have been ignored for generations.

The social isolation of staying at home forces society to slow down, spend time in family or long-term relationships, even make friends with neighbours and reach out electronically to old friends and distant relatives. We are forced to think about our lives.

We do not know what life post coronavirus will be like – but it will be different, and we want to make it different.

Resilient people always turn a crisis into an opportunity.

Queen’s Birthday Conference gives Christians an opportunity to think through the implications of this present crisis.

What is God’s part in this crisis?
How should we respond to the crisis?
What are the lessons Christians should learn from the crisis?
What can and should we say to our society?
How can we take this opportunity to proclaim Christ to His rebellious world?

Monday 8th June 2020, 2:00 pm – 4:30 pm.

Talks and Q&A with Phillip Jensen.

To receive the link for the livestream, register with Two Ways Ministries. Please note that registrations to receive the livestream link will close at 8pm on Sunday night.

Guidance released on NSW COVID-19 laws and churches

“This is a brief update to my previous post on recently announced changes to restrictions on gathering and movement in NSW (now, in fact, dealing with ‘gatherings’ rather than movement) as they affect churches.

The NSW Government has now (as of 31 May) put up online guidance on how ‘Places of Worship’ should be managed. This contains a link to what is called a ‘COVID-19 Safety Plan’ for churches…”

– From Neil Foster at Law and Religion Australia.

The future of singing in church – with Rob Smith, Curtis Smith & Dr Charlotte Hespe

“In New South Wales, Australia churches are permitted to gather for meetings of 50 from Monday, but are not permitted to have communal singing.  Rob Smith, Curtis Smith & Dr Charlotte Hespe discuss. …”

– Very helpful episode of The Pastor’s Heart.

Worship in Coronavirus time — the latest NSW rules

“I have previously commented on the rules concerning movement from home, gatherings in public places and opening of public premises which have been applied in Australia while we deal with the COVID-19 crisis.

The NSW Minister for Health has just released the Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order (No 3) 2020 (“RGM Order No 3”), which commences operation on Monday 1 June 2020 and repeals and replaces the previous orders. In this post I want to outline what the new rules will be in their effect on churches. …”

– Neil Foster, at Law and Religion Australia, takes a look at the latest COVID-19 restrictions affecting churches meeting in NSW.

COVID-19 Church Worker Frequently Asked Questions updated

The Diocese of Sydney has updated its COVID-19 Church Worker Frequently Asked Questions.

There’s important information there for churches weighing returning to gathering.

An invaluable resource for all in the Diocese of Sydney.

Bathurst Diocese Church services resuming

Here’s a media release from the Diocese of Bathurst:

The bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Bathurst (which covers central and western NSW), Mark Calder, has welcomed the announcement from the Premier’s office today that services of worship may resume again, so long as there are no more than 50 people present and that appropriate hygiene requirements, health checks and social distancing is observed.

“We have been in preparation for this announcement for a couple of weeks and have been readying our church leaders for the possibility that church services may soon resume in a modified form,” Bishop Calder commented.

“However, because some of our buildings are quite small and many of our people fall within the most vulnerable age group, we are taking a cautious approach to resuming services.

“While the cleaning, checking, contact recording requirements are all perfectly understandable, they are quite onerous.

“So we are leaving the decision about whether or not to resume services at this time, to each local church’s leadership. People should contact their local church, to see what is planned.”

Should churches wish to resume, they must apply to the Registrar of the Diocese and sign off that they have met all the demands of the multi-faceted checklists which have been provided.

“Everyone in their local context has to be comfortable with this decision. Clergy ought not to press lay people to meet the requirements of meeting again, nor should lay people press clergy to resume,” Bishop Calder said.

“Our relationship with God is not dependent on following certain rituals and ceremonies but is nurtured as we hear the Bible read and explained and respond with prayer and transformed lives.”

Bishop Calder has been producing online services each week since lockdown, (available here https://www.bathurstanglican.org.au ), and many parishioners are content with this form of church for the time being.

“The safety of our people and the community is of primary concern, and churches who do resume services, will be absolutely committed to keeping everyone safe.”

Safety first as restrictions on church gatherings eased

“Archbishop Glenn Davies has welcomed the lifting of numbers allowed for church gatherings, weddings and funerals saying a return to public worship will bring ‘relief, joy and comfort’ to many people. …”

Story from Russell Powell at SydneyAnglicans.net.

Archbishop Davies’ full statement, courtesy of SydneyAnglicans.net, is below. Note his remarks about singing, Bibles and hymn books:

“I recognise the challenges that the Government faces in loosening restrictions while maintaining a COVIDsafe environment. This has been a delicate balancing act and I appreciate the level of consultation and the careful yet flexible approach of Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Health Minister Brad Hazzard and health officials.

Our first concern is public safety and where risk cannot be minimised, then some churches will not be able to re-open their buildings.

But I was able to assure the Premier that Anglican churches are well prepared to return to normal services, within the limits of the 50 person maximum, appropriately distanced. Hand sanitisers will be available at each entrance, along with signage indicating that anyone with symptoms such as fever or cough, should not attend. Church premises will be thoroughly cleaned between services and designated ushers will record the contact details of each person who attends.

We realise that this is not the normality we enjoyed in 2019, as congregational singing will not be possible, the greeting of peace and the distribution of Bibles, hymn books and paper service sheets will not resume. However, we are grateful for the relief, joy and comfort that many parishioners will feel in meeting again in public Christian worship. Some congregations, of course, will be too large to return to public worship but will continue to provide church online until it is safe for the whole congregation to gather as one.

We continue to pray for our Federal and State Governments as they navigate the terrain of a coronavirus world and provide us with wise advice and prudent measures to protect the safety of all.

Archbishop Glenn Davies
29 May 2020.”

Coronavirus restrictions in NSW to be eased for wedding, funerals and religious services

“The New South Wales Government has announced coronavirus restrictions at religious services, weddings and funerals will be relaxed from June 1.

Twenty people will be able to attend weddings, 50 at religious services at places of worship and 50 at funerals, subject to the four-square-metre rule. …

Health Minister Brad Hazzard said extensive COVID-19 outbreaks in places of worship and amongst choirs overseas highlighted why the NSW Government had been cautious in easing restrictions.”

Report from ABC News.

Quiz Worx Home Delivery

For over 20 years Quiz Worx has been Sharing Jesus with Kids Everywhere through fun and creative live puppet shows.

With the global pandemic of COVID-19 shutting down all opportunities for live ministry, Quiz Worx has turned its creative attention to making resources that can help churches and families share Jesus with kids in the home.”

Terrific resources from Quiz Worx.

Preparing and praying for return

“Archbishop Glenn Davies and diocesan bishops have held talks with the NSW government about re-opening churches for up to 50 people as June is set to begin with pubs, clubs and restaurants allowed to have 50 seated patrons. …

Dr Davies said until there was an official lifting of numbers for churches, ‘We should all be prepared to continue, as we have successfully been doing for the past two months, with our online services.’…

Dr Davies recommended that, ‘Until there is clear medical evidence that it is safe to do so, no congregational singing should be allowed, as a precautionary measure.’…”

SydneyAnglicans.net has the latest.

Managing congregational anxiety in the post COVID-19 reboot

From Dominic Steele at The Pastor’s Heart:

“We are addressing how we care for and lead our congregations on the way back. We are seeing states quickly move through the different stages of opening up.

How do we handle the fear of change, and navigate the decisions of starting to meet again. How do we help our members flourish in community while keeping a physical distance? How can we come through this stronger? What about the feelings that they and we are experiencing, and how can we support them through the next few months?

The best advice for Australian churches is still to expect a protracted period with congregations limited to 100 people, with one person per four square metres, for many Churches, this necessitates change, with congregations to be divided or planted.

Jenny Brown heads The Family Systems Practice, is an experienced family systems therapist and the author of Growing Yourself Up.

Nigel Fortesque is the senior minister of Christ Church St Ives.”

Watch here.

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