Dear Ministers, Home Missionaries, Session Clerks and other stakeholders,
Thank you for your patience as we have sought to clarify NSW legislation lifting COVID-19 restrictions that was enacted last night.
The new legislation can be found at: https://gazette.legislation.nsw.gov.au/so/download.w3p?id=Gazette_2020_2020-99.pdf.
While we continue to understand how to apply the new legislation in all congregational settings, our best advice at the moment is as follows:
• The maximum of 10 people participating in a gathering for a religious service excludes the persons necessary for the conduct of, or assisting in the conduct of, the service.
• In other words, those working on the production of a livestream will be excluded from the maximum of 10 worshippers.
• Children are included in the maximum number of 10 people.
• We do not believe that the legislation provides for concurrent areas within the building or church property being used at the same time – i.e. the limit of 10 is for the whole church site at any one time.
• Maximum 10 persons participating in a wedding excludes the couple being married, the persons necessary for the conduct of, or assisting in the conduct of, the service and one photographer or one videographer or both.
• We believe children are included in the maximum persons attending the wedding.
Funerals or Memorial Services
• Maximum 20 persons indoors and 30 persons outdoors excludes the persons necessary for the conduct of, or assisting in the conduct of, the service such as the minister and funeral directors.
• We believe children are included in the maximum persons attending the funeral or memorial service.
Keeping a record of those attending
• It is important that each person arriving into the church premises records their name and contact phone number. While the legislation does not specify that the time of arrival and departure needs to be recorded, we commend this suggestion to you.
• These records are to be kept for at least 4 weeks.
• They must be provided to the Chief Health Officer if requested.
Hygiene and cleaning
• We have provided links to Safe Work Australia in our last Update #12 https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/doc/how-clean-and-disinfect-your-workplace-covid-19 , and ask that the church premises be cleaned and disinfected before and immediately following each service.
• We ask that everyone coming onto church property be provided hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes as they arrive.
• We suggest the best way to do this is to provide sanitizer and wipes at the entrance to the church or other space where the sign-in and sign-out book or record is located.
Bible studies, youth groups, meetings
• We are seeking further advice on whether bible studies, youth groups and church meetings can be held on church premises, and will provide further advice as soon as we have formed a view.
• However, we believe that bible study held at a person’s home is not considered to be a religious gathering under the rules, and is therefore subject to the legislation that specifies that an adult member of the household must take reasonable steps to ensure that no more than 5 visitors are present in the place of residence of the household at any one time.
• On balance, and in light of some ambiguity about whether the legislation applies in all congregational settings, we recommend that congregations should continue to adopt online meetings and services for the time being, unless the minister/home missionary is satisfied that their specific circumstances clearly allow them to gather in accordance with the legislation.
We will continue to update you as our understanding changes or following further announcements by government.
Please don’t hesitate to contact us with questions.
Will you be opening on Sunday?
In light of our comments above, we expect that many congregations will remain closed to public worship for the time being due to the continuing restrictions.
But, we are keen to hear whether you will be opening for church services on Sunday?
If you are planning to open, please send me a quick email to advise us of your decision.
Thanks and kind regards,
Jeoffrey R Falls
General Manager | Chief Executive Officer