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.
“I have been engaged in significant conversations with some Cabinet Ministers as well as officials from NSW Health. I am grateful for your prayers for these meetings and the work of the episcopal team more widely. I have been able both to ask questions and to provide answers on each occasion,” Dr Davies said in a letter to church leaders. “I have also written to the Premier assuring her of our readiness to return to Sunday services where parishioners can be physically present and seeking a loosening of restrictions so that churches are at least on a par with pubs and clubs, where 50 patrons are now allowed.”
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 said he had assured the Premier of the preparedness for returning to Sunday church by outlining the measures that our churches will undertake when normal services resume.
These measures include measuring churches to ensure sufficient physical distancing, good hygiene, church cleaning, the taking and storing of contact details and the removal of any objects to be handed to parishioners, such as Bibles, hymn books or bulletins.
There was also concern about the possible respiratory spread of COVID as church members sing. 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.”
“While we are not yet able to enter Step 2 of the National Roadmap for a COVIDsafe community, all parishes should be preparing now for that eventuality, with a detailed plan for reopening our church buildings, whether it be Step 2 or 3 for your parish, or even the undefined Step 4.”
At the same time, the Standing Committee has passed an ordinance allowing for Annual General Meetings to be held via zoom technology, under clear guidelines.
The Archbishop also said it was too early to make a decision about when the next Diocesan Synod will meet.
“So we continue to wait for many things. We wait and yearn for the day when we can meet in reasonable numbers to share the joy of our fellowship in the Holy Spirit,” Dr Davies said. Renewing his call for prayer about COVID-19, its physical effects and the spiritual health of the nation, the Archbishop concluded: “We wait and we pray.”