As we continue to grapple with the consequences of this viral outbreak and precautions being taken by the Australian government to delay its spread, these updates are slowly adapting to be a means of addressing questions, offering suggestions and sharing experiences.
Indeed, to minimise the sense of isolation caused by this outbreak, please share these updates, encourage questions and provide us stories that we can include in future updates. Through all our interactions with family, friends and neighbours, let’s pray that Jesus shines through this ever-deepening global crisis.
We have framed this Update around topics. Please provide us with feedback on content and format and send us questions that you would like addressed.
We have received a
number of questions about gatherings, so we provide the following summary of
the guidelines provided by the Department of Health:
An indoor gathering takes place within a single enclosed area (a single room or area). However, you should still practice social distancing and good hygiene in these settings.
Non-essential indoor gatherings of less than 100 people (including staff), include weddings and funerals.
This afternoon, the Prime Minster announced a new standard being four square metres per person (which is a greater distance than the former 1.5 metres between people), which effectively places a restriction on the number of people within any enclosed space.
This means that each congregation will now be required to limit the number of people in the space through application of this formula. That is, a space of at least 400 square metres will be required to accommodate the maximum 100 people within the space.
This might mean changing seating or capacity. For example, in the congregational setting, this could include alternate seating or staggered seating. Please note that this does not apply to family or household groups who may sit together.
As of this afternoon, about 30 Ministers together with their Sessions have resolved to physically suspend their Sunday services, with about half moving to online. These new space restrictions may lead to many more Sunday services being suspended. Please keep us informed if you decide to suspend your Sunday service and we will keep you updated as this changes over time.
At the present time, outdoor events of less than 500 attendees can proceed. These extend to weddings and funerals held outdoors or at the graveside.
All events should follow these precautions:
- consider the space, the number of people at the service, and how much room people have to move around safely — as a general rule, people should be able to keep 1.5 metres apart
- make hand hygiene products and suitable rubbish bins readily available
- conduct frequent cleaning and waste disposal
Cleaning and hygiene
- Disinfected and wipe down chairs and surfaces that are likely to be touched. This includes chairs and pews before the Morning Service and also before the Evening Service.
- Encourage people to use soap and water to wash hands as often as possible.
- Have lots of disinfectant available – spray chairs and tables after a group has used them.
- Don’t hand out paper – that is a likely source of transmission – please ask members to bring their own bibles and email them the order of service and songs before the service.
- Small meetings are better where you can ensure people can sit 1.5m from each other (many of our church services will be able to do this).
- Food handling – no shared food.
- Remember that although older people are at the greatest risk, younger people are likely to carry and spread the virus.
PIM Congregation Connect
Presbyterian Inland Mission (PIM) would like to offer to congregations, free of charge during this coronavirus outbreak, the use of the PIM Congregation Connect program, which is currently being used for worship services, bible studies, meetings, etc. PIM Connect is used to join those who are isolated for whatever reason from a congregation. PIM Congregation Connect is essentially internet-based video conferencing. Each congregation has its own login address and users may join either as listen only or with an active microphone and with or without a camera active. (For most people in a congregation, it would be listen only without a camera). For more information, please contact Dennis Rayson at email@example.com or on 0428 830 276.
Annual Congregational Meetings
Several Ministers have contacted us
about their annual congregational meeting. While The Code Part II 1.23 provides that an
annual meeting of the congregation be called “as soon as practicable after the
close of the financial year”, we ask that, if at all possible, the Session
should not wait for the COVID-19 outbreak to pass before calling the
meeting. In doing so, please follow the
government’s protocols for indoor and outdoor gatherings.
If you cannot meet in person, please convene the Annual Congregational Meeting using technology. If this is not viable in your situation, please seek the advice of the Clerk of Assembly, John Irvin, at firstname.lastname@example.org or on (02) 9690 9317. We will send more information on technology assisted meetings in a separate Update on Monday.
We encourage youth groups continue to meet, noting the requirements of indoor gatherings and personal hygiene. The CPU has produced an excellent information sheet for youth groups and online meetings, which can found on https://jerichoroad.org.au/bts-info-sheet-online-communication-with-young-people-march-2020/ and also on www.breakingthesilence.org.au.
We commend this information to all ministers and their youth leaders. Should you like more information, please contact Elissa Donnellan, Training & Communications Manager, Conduct Protocol Unit (CPU) at email@example.com or on 0491 157 546
We have been asked about insurance cover for losses incurred by congregations through loss of bookings (e.g. camp bookings). Unfortunately, the Church’s insurance program does not cover events caused as a result of a pandemic, and insurance is not available. Should you have any queries or questions, please contact Greg Scott, Insurance Manager, Church Offices at firstname.lastname@example.org or on (02) 9690 9312.
At this challenging time for our world and for our local congregations, it is good to remind ourselves to “be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God”. (Ephesians 4:32-5:2)
Have a good weekend!
Grace and peace,
Rev Richard Keith, NSW Moderator
Jeoffrey R Falls, General Manager, Chief Executive Officer