As you will be aware, the Prime Minister announced further restrictions last night:
In respect to our church, these are:
- No organised meetings or groups on church premises or in people’s homes, although we note that the government has not closed domestic and family violence and drug and alcohol support groups which can continue as they are part of the health portfolio and considered essential.
- Limit unnecessary visitors to private homes, including private events in homes. However, congregational members can still be visited by the Minister or Elder to provide pastoral support.
- Staff using church premises as their workplace is still allowed with appropriate social distancing. This includes a small number of people working on the production of a live stream or pre-recorded church service.
- Sadly, funerals can only be conducted with fewer than 10 people in attendance at any one time (adhering to the 1 person per 4 square metre rule).
- Weddings may proceed with only the couple, the minister and two witnesses present.
- Unfortunately, all places of worship should now be closed.
- No outdoor gatherings, with a limit of no more than 10 persons in a related group in an outdoor gathering.
The Prime Minister has warned that further restrictions are expected to be announced.
Online technology and live streaming
- Please remember the importance of privacy issues when livestreaming.
- You do not need to produce professional grade, online presentations. Simplicity has its virtues. Remember that you are uniquely placed to provide continued connection with people who know and love your members, who have shared their joys and sorrows.
- Some congregations do not have the same level of computer and IT knowledge as others. If your congregation has an IT person who would like to offer their services to help other congregations get established, please contact Peter Merrick on email@example.com. If your congregation needs IT help, please also contact Peter.
Breaking the Silence – working with children
The Conduct Protocol Unit (CPU) is working on information sheets to assist with applying Breaking the Silence in the new environments being created by COVID-19. These sheets should be available by the end of the week. In the meantime, the following two points are important:
- Informed parental/carer consent for a young person’s participation is required for live streaming, video conferencing and social media communications. This can be done digitally so long as you can identify that it is, in fact, the parent/carer writing the email/ticking the box and giving consent.
- The Code of Conduct cannot be relaxed during this crisis. Leaders should be able to uphold the Code of Conduct in any online communications that are introduced.
Announcements are being made by the Commonwealth and State governments about support that may be available. The implications of these announcements are difficult to work through and we ask your patience as the General Office takes the lead on interacting with governments on behalf of the church and on advising parishes of the support, if any, that is available.
The General Manager will provide further information on government support as soon as possible.
Trustee and M&M stipend safety-net support for Ministers
The Trustees are deeply concerned to support the ‘core business of the church’ during this difficult time, that is, the ongoing work of ministers as they lead their congregations.
To that end, the Trustees have approved a stipend safety-net through establishing a grant facility, initially of $1 million, for immediate and ongoing relief for congregations unable to pay their stipend(s) to Ordained Ministers and Home Missionaries as a result of the crisis.
This grant facility will be administered by M&M and be reviewed monthly by the Trustees.
In considering such a grant, M&M will assess the extent to which congregations can meet their stipend obligations by accessing any other congregational funds in accordance with rule 1.38 in the Code.
M&M aims to have an application form available online by the end of this week.
To assist congregations in meeting their financial obligations, the Trustees will also receive requests from congregations for capital drawdowns from available cash reserves on a case-by-case basis.
The General Assembly
The Clerk of the Assembly, John Irvin, advises that the NSW
General Assembly will not proceed in its usual format in July. The Clerk and the Business Committee are
currently reviewing options including the possibility of using internet-based
alternatives for some functions of Assembly to occur in a limited fashion. When a viable alternative has been
sufficiently matured, the Business Committee will share details with
Presbyteries, Sessions, Committees and other church agencies.
Moderator’s COVID-19 Steering Committee
Yesterday, the Moderator formed a COVID-19 Steering Committee, comprising the PCNSW Moderator, PCA Moderator-General and representatives from M&M, Code, Business, GS&C, PSS, PY and APWM committees, Christ College, Trustees and others as the Committee may determine going forward.
The Committee’s agreed purpose is to:
- Identify priorities and resource needs of congregations, Presbyteries and committees during the COVID-19 heath crisis.
- Share information and ideas to maintain congregational health and pastoral connections by ministers and their sessions with communicants and adherents across NSW and ACT.
- Help to co-ordinate efforts from the various committees of the Church and General Office.
- Gather information and insights into the financial health of congregations, Presbyteries and committees during this period, and resolve ways to assist in sustaining them.
- Provide a single point of trusted communication to all congregations and a rallying point for Christ through encouraging, praying for and supporting ministers and sessions as they minister to their members and the wider community.
- Share information and ideas across Australian States and Territories.
The Steering Committee is committed to support Ministers and their people as we walk this path together.
Church Offices remain open
Church Offices remains open with staff working from home and all calls redirected. This includes payroll, finance, accounting, insurance, property, trust services and the Trustee Investment Fund. Please contact us at any time.
Jeof Falls and Peter Merrick are receiving many emails of enquiry, which they encourage and to which they will be responding as quickly as they can.
Grace and peace,
Rev Richard Keith, NSW Moderator
Jeoffrey R Falls, General Manager, Chief Executive Officer