Responses to protecting our community have escalated in recent days.
An increasing number of churches have resolved to stop Sunday services. At this time, we are not asking or directing Presbyterian Churches to take this action unless directed to do so by government.
This does not mean that our position may not change on this as this health crisis evolves from day-to-day. It also does not mean that Ministers together with their Sessions may not decide to follow that action if they feel that it would be in the best interests of their congregation. The composition of every congregation is different, reflecting the rich diversity of Christ’s people. Ministers together with their Sessions are asked to take whatever action they deem necessary to protect the health and safety of their members and their local community.
We do ask Ministers and Sessions who take this action to advise us in the General Office so that we can monitor and share that knowledge with others.
1. As in our previous advices, please monitor https://www.health.nsw.gov.au and https://www.health.gov.au for regular updates.
2. Ask Church members that if they are feeling unwell, to please stay home.
3. Encourage people who at risk (e.g. elderly members or immunocompromised people) to carefully consider the wisdom of attending church during this period.
4. Please follow Health guidelines and take all precautions to minimise the risk of meetings, bible studies and growth groups causing the spread of the virus.
Accordingly, we recommend that:
(a) Any group with high risk members attending be cancelled or modified to protect the health and safety of members.
(b) Individual groups discuss and modify the way they conduct meetings to remain sensitive to the needs and concerns of people attending these groups.
(c) Ensure that individual groups confirm with the host family that it remains comfortable for the group to meet in their home and be sensitive to the changing expectations and concerns of the host family.
(d) Groups may decide to meet in smaller groups or even connect by social networking platforms. This may include considering connecting through platforms such as Zoom, Skype or Congregation Connect.
(e) This includes Session and Committee of Management meetings, with social media platforms or email agendas and motions being adopted. Please contact us should you require more information on these social media platforms.
5. Churches may decide to live stream their services. Should you be thinking about this option, we ask you to consider the following:
(a) While live streaming is not the same as recording, anything that can be streamed can be recorded, seen by and shared with anyone on the internet and so it is important that live-streamed material passes the same tests that a video permanently posted on the internet would pass.
(b) You will need a streaming license FOR MUSIC from CCLI: https://au.ccli.com/copyright-licences/#stream-licence.
Be aware that Facebook and Youtube may cut livestreams on their platforms if their software recognises copyrighted music, irrespective of whether the Church has the correct license.
(c) Consider privacy of information, audio and images which are broadcast. Some of the things you will need to consider include for example: making sure people understand their voices and images may be broadcast, especially if they are on stage or near the front; avoiding broadcasting images of minors; avoiding broadcasting other sensitive images, e.g. the names and faces of missionaries in the field; being sensitive not to broadcast personal, sensitive or circumstantial information about members during announcements or prayers.
(d) Please place a notice at the front door announcing that the service will be recorded and streamed to members of the congregation and, that as a result, it will be possible that personal images, including those of their children, may be recorded and broadcast. If they do not agree to be filmed, then please ask them to not sit near the front of the church or in that part of the service that is being filmed. Encourage them to speak with their Minster or any Elder about any concerns that they may have knowing that the service is being recorded.
6. As emphasised by government, please take all possible hygiene precautions, including:
(a) providing hand sanitiser and encouraging people to use it.
(b) discouraging physical contact such as hand shaking.
(c) printing bible readings and hymns instead of handling books.
(d) not passing collection bags from hand to hand.
(e) carefully managing the handling and service of food and drinks.
(f) taking care that Communion bread is not handled by anyone other than the person receiving it (tongs are recommended) and using individual cups of juice.
(g) placing signs outlining these precautions in church kitchens and other public areas.
7. 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.
8. In the expectation that freewill giving is likely to fall over the coming months, please ask your Committee of Management to review current year forecasts with the objective of minimising this year’s congregational costs. Please contact the General Manager, Jeof Falls, should any congregation experience serious and sustained financial difficulties for assistance and advice.
As members become increasingly anxious, we ask you and your elders to be wise in communication and gracious in outreach and support. As one of our Ministers shared with their congregation this afternoon “We ask you to please pray. Pray for our Government as they seek to keep our community safe. Pray for those who are fearful, that they might find comfort in Jesus. Pray for health care workers to stay safe. Pray that none of our members will drift away from Jesus during this time. Pray that the gospel of Jesus may be heard and believed during this time of fear in our community.”
Grace and peace,
Rev Richard Keith, NSW Moderator
Jeoffrey R Falls, General Manager, Chief Executive Officer