COVID-19 Update for Presbyteries and Congregations
People in leadership in the Uniting Church Synod of NSW and ACT,
Leaders from all Presbyteries and the Synod have met today, to give consideration to the situation regarding worship and groups meeting on Uniting Church facilities. We have agreed to provide the following guidance to Presbyteries, Congregations and Faith Communities across the Synod.
We note the clear advice that has been provided by government health authorities, about the importance of acting early for the benefit of the whole society. Early action will minimise the likelihood of becoming infected, slow the rate at which the virus spreads, flatten the curve of the incidence of serious cases, and assist the medical and hospital systems in responding to seriously increased demands.
The very strong recommendation is that we should not be meeting in person in any gathering.
As Paul long ago advised, “whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith“ (Gal 6:10). Our commitment to the common good mandates that we proceed in this direction.
We have a responsibility towards one another in our community of faith. By keeping distant from one another, not touching physically, not gathering in groups, we lessen the possibility that we pass on the virus to one another.
We also have a responsibility to other people in our society. We know that the virus will keep on spreading. By not gathering, we reduce the spread of the virus in society, which flattens the curve, spreading out the number of serious cases, making it more feasible for the hospital and medical systems to cope with the inevitable rise of cases to be dealt with.
We acknowledge that conversations about modes of operating have been undertaken already in many presbyteries, congregations and faith communities. We anticipate that a government directive is imminent, which will restrict meeting in groups and require us to cease all gatherings.
We therefore propose the following strategies, on the understanding that they will contribute to lessening the risk, slowing the rate of spread of the virus in our communities.
- Support Church Councils of Uniting Church congregations who have already decided to suspend worship in their congregation;
- Strongly urge that Church Councils of Uniting Church congregations immediately decide to suspend all worship services as from today;
- Strongly urge that Church Councils of all Uniting church congregations (a) decide to suspend immediately all other church activities in their premises and (b) decide to suspend immediately the use of their church facilities for all community users;
- Note that many church facilities are the base for community activities which are relied upon by the most vulnerable people in our communities (emergency relief, food banks, and the like), and strongly urge that Church Councils in this situation adopt clear infection control protocols which will be available from Albert Olley in Uniting Resources on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0404 801 191;
- Strongly recommend that Ministers and Pastors, Elders and Church Councils (a) give active consideration to ways that they can foster social contact amongst their people in safe ways, (b) encourage people within the congregation to maintain fellowship and mutual support by other means: Australia Post, telephone, internet, Facebook, online resources (Saltbush, Insights, Facebook, etc), and (c) note that Adrian Drayton, (Synod Communications email@example.com) is collating the various options available for online activities as a church;
- Encourage people to use this time as an opportunity for personal retreat and reflection, for enriching and renewing their life of faith, for discovering new ways of reaching out in friendship and support to others in faith, even in the midst of the challenges being experienced.
It is important to note at this time that Uniting Church facilities are the base for activities which are relied upon by the most vulnerable people in our communities including emergency relief, food banks and some services provided by Uniting who support 90,000 people across the community each year. Uniting continues to serve the most disadvantaged, families and communities who will be more affected at this time.
All services that the church facilitates for the community will be reviewed and continue to operate under the guidance of the Department of Health and Department of Education directives.
Uniting continues to serve the most disadvantaged, families and communities who will be more affected at this time. And we acknowledge that this is a rapidly changing situation and will continue to monitor in days and weeks to come.
Rev. Jane Fry, General Secretary
Rev. Simon Hansford, Moderator