COVID-19 has now been declared a Pandemic by the World Health Organization, and we are closely monitoring developments across our churches and institutions.
Thank you to those ministers and members of the church who have written to us seeking advice and offering suggestions. We hope that this update sheds further light on the Church’s response to this health crisis.
Although COVID-19 is expected to continue to spread through NSW and the ACT, slowing the spread is just as important as stopping the spread. Providing time for Australia’s health system to prepare for peak infections improves the health outcomes of all Australians.
As COVID-19 poses a serious risk to the elderly and sick, we ask Ministers and their Elders and members to find creative ways of making sure our members who are isolated by this disease still feel connected to resources and help. The Christian community must show that sharing rather than hoarding is the true solution to seeing this pandemic off.
We encourage the following actions be taken by all congregations:
- Monitor declarations and recommendations by the Department of Health and take any directions from the Department should a member of your church be tested positive to the virus. This includes closing the church to meetings or services for the time period advised by the Department.
Should you be advised that any of your members have tested positive to the virus, please advise us immediately so that we can monitor procedures and responses.
Some Ministers have contacted us wanting to know whether it was going to be up to them to close Sunday services. Unless directed by the Department of Health, we ask that before doing so, Ministers contact the General Manager, Jeof Falls, for advice. It is better for us to act in concert with one another than to make unilateral conflicting decisions.
Having said this, Ministers together with their Sessions are asked to take whatever action they deem necessary to protect the safety of their members and their local community.
- We emphasise the best way of looking after ourselves and our members and neighbours is through good hygiene practices, including handwashing and disinfecting surfaces to curb the spread of the virus.
- While hand sanitiser pumps are currently proving extremely difficult to buy, we
encourage you to ask every member of the Church who may be buying one or two for themselves, to buy a third for the Church, for which they will be reimbursed.
If possible, we ask that bottles of hand sanitiser be available as members arrive to Church and in all meetings. Please encourage their use.
- While churches are places of fellowship, we encourage members to refrain from handshakes. We are finding that most people coming to Church Offices will use the hand sanitisers and happily refrain from shaking hands, with a smile and a light-hearted jab at the new procedures. A friendly smile is a wonderful way of welcoming people.
- Morning teas and suppers are key times of fellowship in the life of the church. At this time, we are not asking Churches to stop serving morning teas and suppers. Rather, we ask that congregations look at ways to provide pre-packaged biscuits rather than open meals or sweets and cakes. We also recommend that servers be asked to use hygienic gloves when preparing and serving food. This includes the preparation and serving of communion, including taking care in handling the bread and using individual cups of juice. Signs mentioning these things should be on display in church kitchens.
- 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 hygiene practice.
- Ask Church members that if they are feeling unwell, to please stay home. This applies at all times, but especially now.
- If Church members are travelling overseas to high-risk areas, please ask them to self-quarantine themselves for 14 days upon returning home. Please refer to https://www.health.nsw.gov.au and https://www.health.gov.au for regular updates.
- There has been some confusion over who is the Church’s official spokesperson during this health crisis. The Moderator, Rev Richard Keith, is involved in all written communications. However, as Richard may not be conveniently contactable, please ask any media to contact the General Manager, Jeof Falls, on (02) 9690 9333.
- Please keep us informed and do not hesitate to contact Peter Merrick or Jeof Falls in Church Offices on firstname.lastname@example.org or 02 9690 9333 if you have any questions or concerns.
This outbreak is not going to be easily controlled and we are starting to see the closure of public events, which in time may affect church gatherings. We encourage all Ministers
together with their Sessions to develop ministry and pastoral plans addressing the question: “what are we going to do if we can’t meet”?
As members become increasingly anxious, we also ask you and your elders to be wise in
communication and gracious in outreach and support.
Grace and peace,
Rev Richard Keith, NSW Moderator
Jeoffrey R Falls, General Manager, Chief Executive Officer