COVID-19 Update #14

Dear all,

Easing of restrictions in NSW from Saturday 13 June 2020

We continue to give thanks that we can return to fellowship together.  We pray that God will keep safe those who return to church and encourage all congregations to be sensitive to the concerns of their members as you do so.  This is particularly so for elderly and vulnerable members.

We are very pleased to confirm that the NSW Government has opened places of worship in NSW, including church halls and premises to external users, which we outline below:

Church services for the next two Sundays

  • Up to 50 persons, subject to the total number of persons calculated by allowing 4 square metres of space for each person, excluding the persons necessary for the conduct of, or assisting in the conduct of, the service.
  • Churches that have opened or plan to open are now required to:
  • Complete and have available for congregational members or external users a COVID-19 safety plan which can be downloaded from: https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/industry-guidelines/places-of-worship
  • Maintain a record of the name and mobile number or email address of all people using the church or church premises for any reason for a period of at least 28 days.
  • The limits apply per service or gathering on the premises rather than to the ‘place of public worship’ as a whole.  This means that you can have multiple services or gatherings up to the relevant limits simultaneously on your church site, provided those services or gatherings stay separate and separate records are kept for each.
  • Congregations can now meet in community halls and schools, subject to the 50-person limit on religious services.
  • Morning tea and supper after church services is now allowed, subject to the above restrictions.  We encourage congregations to take care in serving food and drink, including using paper cups and packaged food for the time being.  Please ensure that you prepare a safety plan, which will include considering how best to gather after the service.

(Please note that from 1 July, the Government proposes to further ease restrictions by removing the upper limit of 50 and relying solely on the maximum number of persons complying with the strict 4 square metre rule.  We expect this will be legislated before the end of next week.)

Funerals

On compassionate grounds, restrictions on funerals have been eased (from last Saturday 13 June) to allow the 4 square metre rule to apply.  That is, there is now no upper limit on the number of persons attending a funeral, other than that limited by allowing one person per 4 square metres.

People attending the service are required to supply their name and contact details so that they can be used for contact tracing

Weddings

No change: 

  • In addition to the couple, the people conducting or assisting in the conduct of the wedding, a photographer, videographer, and up to 20 guests (including adults and children) may attend a wedding. 
  • People attending are required to provide their name and contact details so that they can be used for contact tracing

Use of church premises for purposes other than services and by other groups

As from last Saturday, there are no longer restrictions that prevent a place of public worship (including the church hall or other rooms or facilities on the premises) being open to the public for other purposes.  This will be welcomed by many of our churches.

However, certain requirements must still be met:

  1. Any class (e.g. a dance or music class) or organised event (e.g. a community event) must not have more than the lesser of:
    1. 20 persons participating (not including the persons conducting or assisting in the conduct of the class or event and parents, guardians and carers of the participants), or 
    1. the total number of persons calculated by applying the 4sqm rule, and
  2. have a COVID-19 safety plan in place and available to the church or the public (template appended) or at: https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/industry-guidelines/places-of-worship.

Children’s and Youth ministries

The maximum number of participants you can have will depend on whether the activity constitutes a religious service (50 persons) or a class or organised event (20 persons).  

While it is still possible to classify youth and children’s ministry as a religious service, the inclusion of a new category for class or other organised activity in places of public worship, makes it more difficult to give the term religious service a broad interpretation.  

Accordingly, we suggest ministers and youth leaders limit the number of participants to 20 persons in any one room or space, subject to there being no more in the room or space than allowed by the 4sqm rule.

Please remember that you will need to maintain a record of the name and mobile number or email address of every child and young person (or their parents or carers) involved in these ministries for a period of at least 28 days.

Meetings

While the NSW Government’s advice is to use telephone or video for essential meetings where practical, meetings of Session, Committee of Management and Congregational meetings are now permissible, subject to there being no more than 20 persons participating, subject to the 4sqm rule and maintaining appropriate records for contact purposes.

Cleaning

We continue to receive many questions about the frequency and type of cleaning to be undertaken following meetings and church services.  These questions are outlined in the safety plan, and guidelines can be found at: https://www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/doc/how-clean-and-disinfect-your-workplace-covid-19

The NSW government requires continued practicing of physical distancing and good handwashing hygiene.  If church members or guests present even the mildest symptoms, they unfortunately need to be asked not to attend.

Visits to households

Gatherings in homes with up to 20 visitors are now permitted.  There is no 4sqm rule applicable to gatherings in homes.  However, we encourage people to practice 1.5m social distancing and good hygiene in home group gatherings.

We trust you will find these guidelines helpful as you prepare to return to worship in your Church.  Please do not hesitate to email Jeof Falls on jfalls@pcnsw.org.au or Peter Merrick on pmerrick@pcnsw.org.au should you have any questions.

Grace and peace,
Rev Richard Keith, NSW Moderator
Jeoffrey R Falls, General Manager, Chief Executive Officer