In recent days we have received enquiries about how congregations should best respond to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).  Many nations, including Australia, now have people with the virus.  Our Church communities have many members who travel and connect with people from different countries every day.  As a result, and arising from Commonwealth Department of Health Guidelines, we ask all Ministers, Sessions and Committees of Management to provide sensible safeguards as you meet together in Church, Children and Youth Ministries, Bible Studies and other fellowship meetings.

Presbyterian Aged Care, our Schools and Allowah Children’s Hospital are on the front foot and have robust processes and policies in place in response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

The best way of looking after ourselves and our members and neighbours is through good hygiene practices. 

Here are a few things to consider and some actions to take:

1.   Handwashing and disinfecting will help to curb the spread of all germs.

  • Please attempt to acquire sanitizer pumps and encourage Church members to make use of them.  If available, we ask that bottles of hand sanitizer be available as members arrive to Church and in all meetings.  Encourage members to use the sanitizers, which in time will become common practice.
  • The process of handwashing should take 40-60 seconds (about the amount of time it takes to hum “happy birthday” to yourself a couple of times).  Please see pages 2 and 3 in this document from the WHO for the correct way to disinfect and wash your hands.
  • Please encourage all Church members to use a tissue and to cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze.

2.   As per the Health Department Guidelines, we encourage members to refrain from handshakes and other contact like kissing on the cheek.  A friendly smile is a wonderful way of welcoming people.

3.   While children are less vulnerable to the impact of the virus, it is important that great care be taken with hygiene in these ministries.  Please examine all aspects of your children’s ministry program to ensure good practice.

4.   Morning teas and suppers are key times of fellowship in the life of the church.  Please encourage those preparing and serving food to undertake wise preparation and delivery of food.  This also applies to preparing and serving communion, including taking care in handling the bread and using individual cups of juice.

5.   Ask Church members that if they are feeling unwell, to please stay home.  This applies at all times, but especially now. 

6.   If Church members are travelling overseas to high-risk areas, please ask them to self-quarantine themselves upon returning home.  To help limit the spread of coronavirus, Church members must isolate themselves in the following circumstances:

  • If they have left, or transited through, mainland China in the last 14 days they must isolate themselves for 14 days from the date of leaving mainland China.
  • If they have left, or transited through Iran on or after 1 March, they must isolate themselves until 14 days after leaving Iran.
  • Please ask them to think about others in their household who may have travelled overseas.  If they have been in close contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus, they must isolate themselves for 14 days from the date of last contact with the confirmed case.

7.   Tell us if there is a problem.  We want to support our Church members.  Please ask them to speak with you if they have any concerns or contact Peter Merrick or Jeof Falls in Church Offices on or 02 9690 9333.

What could happen next?

It is possible that any region of Sydney or NSW could become a hub of the illness. If one of our schools or aged care facilities or a local Church community becomes infected, we will provide further advices.

If a full Pandemic is declared, current procedures are likely to change as it will be treated like Influenza.  We will keep you updated on changes in procedures and recommendations from the Department of Health.

For the time being, however, and indeed at all times, good hygiene is the most important deterrent.

As members may become increasingly anxious, we ask you and your elders to be wise in communication and gracious in outreach and support.

Let’s do all we can to prevent COVID-19 impacting our communities.

Grace and peace,
Jeof Falls