It was exciting to hear this week the plans from our state government for coming out of lockdown in Greater Sydney. In particular, for our life together as a Church family, it is very exciting that we should be able to join together in person very soon.
My aim in this announcement is to share with you the plans we are making, however it is possible that these may change depending on government advice and allowances. Let me talk about three things: loving, gathering and caring.
It is important to show love to one another at this time. For some, the issue of vaccination can be an emotional and important one. We all carry with us personal circumstances and histories that guide our decisions and direct what we are able to do. We cannot judge the hearts of others, but we can always imitate the love of Jesus.
If you are vaccinated, please show love to those who have chosen not to be vaccinated, or cannot be vaccinated. Love them knowing that they are sisters and brothers in Christ who have made decisions based on their circumstances, conscience, and best intentions.
If you are not vaccinated, or have chosen not to be vaccinated, please show love to those who are vaccinated. Love them knowing that they are sisters and brothers in Christ who have made decisions based on their circumstances, conscience, and best intentions.
On the road ahead, we may find ourselves frustrated or disappointed with the plans made by our government, by our church leaders, or by our Christian brothers and sisters. But we cannot be disappointed with the plans of God. And so I ask you to pray for our Church leaders at this time that we will make decisions that will glorify God above all else.
The plan at the moment from the government will allow three stages of freedom.
1. The state 70% vaccination level
Estimated October 11
On the first Monday after 70% vaccination levels are reached, those who are vaccinated will have much more freedom to go to many places, including places of worship. Those not vaccinated will not have these freedoms. Therefore, we have decided as a church, we will not open up to on-site services at this 70% stage. Instead we will wait a couple more weeks until the 80% level is reached.
2. The state 80% vaccination level
Estimated October 25
On the first Monday after 80% vaccination levels are reached, there will be further freedoms for the vaccinated. However, for places of worship, they will be open to ALL people, vaccinated and unvaccinated. There will be no vaccine passport required for church attendance. All people will be able to attend. From what we know at the moment, there will still be some restrictions:
- Check in required upon entry (via QR code)
- Masks are to be worn
- No congregational singing
- 1 person per 4 square metres
- Use Hand sanitiser
- Social distancing at all times where possible
We plan to open up on site worship at this 80% stage. It seems that our first Sunday back will quite possibly be October 31.
3. December 1 freedoms
On December 1, the state government has indicated that more freedoms will be available to ALL people. For churches, it means that singing will be allowed with a 1 person per 2 square metre rule indoors. Masks will not be required outdoors. What this means is that our outdoor Christmas carols and other Christmas services can continue as they would, fairly normally.
Of course, some details may change but we will keep you up to date.
We have discussed the options and alternatives and we know there are many different ways we could do things. However, after many discussions with our health leaders, our Diocesan leaders, and our Parish leaders, we believe the best way forward will be to open our doors for on-site gatherings when allowed to do so at the 80% vaccination level (estimated to be Sunday October 31st), and to resume all services as normal on that week – while abiding by government restrictions.
Finally, I ask that we might aim to be vigilant in the way we care for one another after the doors are open again. As Churches will be one of the few places allowing vaccinated and non-vaccinated people to gather together, there may be some who are uncomfortable with this, especially those who are in higher risk categories. Some will choose not to come because they do not wish to put others at risk. Some will choose not to come because they will be at a greater risk than others. There are many reasons some will not be able to join us. Therefore, we must be looking out for those who are not yet able to return. Please care for one another above and beyond. Listen to each other, pray for each other, and look for ways to serve each other.
One of the ways we plan to care for the more vulnerable in our community, such as youth and children, will be to require full vaccination for those planning to serve in these ministry areas at this time as many of the young people under our care are still ineligible for vaccination. This is in line with requirements for school teachers and Scripture teachers as advised by our Diocese and our state government. If you plan to be serving in ministry areas which involve close contact with vulnerable people, please speak with your ministry leader to discuss any concerns or questions you may have.
If you have any questions or concerns, I do ask that you would call or email me or your service pastor so we can discuss your concerns with you. Your pastors would particularly like to hear from you if you know that you will not be able to return for a while. We want to care for you as you will be at the very front of our minds during this time.
Please also remember that even after full vaccination, there can be an interval of time before a vaccine gains its full effectiveness. You can read more about these aspects of vaccination from the NSW health website here:
Or here (easy read version):
And of course, our plan is that all live-streaming of services will remain into the future!
Thank you for your prayers. A special thanks to you if these decisions adversely affect you or your family. May God help us to show our love to one another sacrificially, for his glory.