What we need to do to regather
Uniting Churches must meet a number of criteria before they can resume gathering. Here are some practical solutions.
The NSW and ACT Synod has laid out a roadmap towards regathering, which includes advice on what churches must do before they resume meeting together.
In order to commence re-gathering, churches must meet a number of conditions that ensure that they are not further spreading COVID-19. These include social distancing protocols and ways to ensure that regular activities are handled in a safe way.
In a letter to congregations, Associate Secretary Rev. Bronwyn Murphy says that churches’ planning for risk mitigation was an act of loving our neighbours.
“Even though restrictions are easing, it does not make returning to face to face worship an automatically safe or wise option,” she writes.
“A lot of careful planning and thought needs to accompany every group that wishes to meet.”
Congregations will need to allocate people to certain roles in order to meet these requirements.
“Who will record the name and contact details of every person, who steps on to church property – no matter what the reason,” Rev. Murphy writes.
“For you to meet in person, who will disinfect every surface after it has been touched – doorknobs, light switches, toys, colouring-in pencils/crayons, Bibles, hymn books, microphones, lecterns, phones, laptops, seats/pews…”
What needs to change?
COVID-19 has affected a number of activities that church congregations regularly partake in as part of their regular worship services.
For example, singing has been identified as a high-risk activity – almost as effective as coughing and sneezing at transmitting disease – so we cannot sing together at the moment.
Communion, part of many church services that requires eating and drinking in a public space, is another potentially risky regular activity. Congregations will need to consider how they distribute communion elements.
Churches will need to consider how social distancing requirements may affect regular worship practices. For example, passing the peace traditionally often involves shaking hands.
In order to meet hygiene requirements, Campbelltown UnitingCare have come up with the unique solution of a hands-free sanitiser, sales of which will support a mission in Uganda.
The Synod’s chosen procedures are stricter and go further than the NSW State Government’s recommendations, a conservative and cautious approach that leadership says is intended to ensure that public health is prioritised.
Five steps to regathering
Every church looking to regather will need to follow a five step process.
The five steps to regathering include:
- Select your activity
- Review related Covid-19 materials and communications
- Prepare and have your Church Council endorse a Covid-19 Safety Plan
- Send the plan to firstname.lastname@example.org and your Presbytery PRC
- Commence re-gathering when ready
Do you have any solutions that your church is looking to implement to prevent the spread of COVID-19? Comment below.
An FAQ page is available here, that deals with questions on what to address in order to reopen.
Associate Secretary Rev. Bronwyn Murphy’s letter on returning to worship and other activities can be viewed here.
The Public Health Restrictions on Gatherings and Movement for NSW are available here.
The Public Health Restrictions on Gatherings and Movement for the ACT are available here.
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