COVID-19 and Church Life

9 Aug 2020 by Rev Dr John Squires in: Formation and Discipleship Resources

COVID-19 and Church Life

From Rev Dr John Squires
Presbytery Minister - Wellbeing


The situation regarding COVID-19 and its continued spread in society remains fluid and unpredictable. We share the concerns and anguish of friends and family in Victoria, especially in Melbourne. We look with concern on the situation in Sydney, and are aware that this is now impacting various regions in NSW. Many of us now know friends or acquaintances who have had COVID-19, who have been seriously ill, or even some who have sadly died because of this potent virus. Our prayers continue, and will need to continue, for those who are suffering and grieving.
 
In this challenging and confronting situation, the leadership of our Synod continues to monitor government advice, and in the last few days further Guidance Notes have been issued from Synod leadership. These have been sent directly to ministry leaders across the Canberra Region Presbytery.
 
Guidance Note 13relating to the extension of JobKeeper—of particular interest to Treasurers
“On 21 July 2020, the Australian Government announced that it will be extending the JobKeeper Payment subsidy until 28 March 2021; however, eligibility criteria and payment amounts shall be changing.
https://nswact.uca.org.au/media/9017/covid19-guidance-note-jobkeeper-2-0-29-july-2020-final.pdf

Guidance Note 14, advising on gathering in person, wearing masks, and avoiding singing—of particular interest to Ministers and Pastors, and Church Council members
“The NSW Government has announced that COVID-19 restrictions will tighten. Given the restrictions and curfew people of Victoria are facing reminds us the second wave is a real and very present threat to the health and well-being of people in NSW and the ACT. In reminding us that ‘no border is impenetrable’, the Premier of NSW has issued the strong recommendation that places of worship refrain from gathering face to face wherever possible. Should face to face worship be unavoidable, all participants are strongly urged to wear a face mask and to refrain from any form of singing.”
https://nswact.uca.org.au/media/9046/covid19-guidance-note-14-update-from-nsw-premier-4-aug-2020.pdf
 
Whilst these recommendations apply within NSW, members of churches within the ACT are well advised to attend to the medical advice that underlies them. 
The Chief Minister of the ACT has issued a press release which states, in part,
“NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant has been clear that wearing masks is the fourth line of defence after social distancing, hand hygiene and staying home if you are sick. The ACT endorses this position from the NSW Chief Health Officer. Canberra is not an area of high community transmission and, therefore, the wearing of face masks is not currently a mandatory requirement. However, a situation may arise in the future where that changes. If we start to see cases in areas immediately surrounding the ACT, or we start to get new cases in Canberra, then wearing a face mask in public will feature as part of our response. Just like NSW, mask wearing would be the fourth line of defence in Canberra. It would be in addition to physical distancing, hand hygiene and staying home if you are unwell. ACT residents, particularly those unable to physically distance in their daily work or daily activities, are now encouraged to prepare for a time where wearing a face masks becomes another part of how we respond to the threat of COVID-19.”
https://www.cmtedd.act.gov.au/open_government/inform/act_government_media_releases/barr/2020/statement-advice-on-mask-wearing-and-nsw-travel
 
It is entirely possible that the situation will change once again, between this newsletter and the coming weekend. I will forward on any further communications as they are received.
 
Regards,
Rev Dr John Squires
Presbytery Minister—Wellbeing 
Canberra Region Presbytery
Uniting Church in Australia
0408 024 642
johns@nswact.uca.org.au
https://canberra.uca.org.au/
blogs on ‘An Informed Faith’
at https://johntsquires.com/