COVID-19 Church Worker Frequently Asked Questions

Assume all information below is current unless pending changes are indicated.

Latest changes:

(July 10 2020)

  • Year 12's challenging year. Here.
  • Southern Cross for July out now. Here.
  • Videos explaining new COVID-safe rules here.
  • FAQs updated below.
  • Archbishop's email 1 July here.
  • New answer on church camps here.
  • Templates for COVID-19 safety plans for weddings and funerals now available here.
  • Return to SRE site added.
  • Archbishop reads BCP services, see the prayer page.

Return to Gathering
Enabling local decisions for local communities

On 1 July, Public Health (COVID-19 Restrictions on Gathering and Movement) Order (No4) 2020 replaces the previous order. The order is here.

In addition, the COVID-19 Safety Plans for Places of Worship, Funerals, Memorial Services and Wakes, and Wedding Ceremonies and Receptions have all been updated. You can find them here.

One of the most significant change is found in the Safety Plan for Places of Worship. It states:

Education programs should be conducted in accordance with the NSW Government guidelines on Schools and Childcare. Students do not need to follow strict adult physical distancing guidelines but should follow good hygiene practices. Staff should continue to maintain 1.5m physical distancing from students where practical.

We believe this applies to our youth and children’s ministries. You’ll find advice from Youthworks in the FAQ section below.

With regards to the latest Public Health Order, the following points are worth noting:

  • As already announced by the Premier on 14 June, the number of mourners attending a funeral may be as many as 50 persons, unless the premises are sufficient to hold more persons where there is at least 4m2 per person.
  • Gatherings in people’s homes, such as Bible studies, remains at the same maximum number of 20 persons (not including the residents of the household) who can visit at any one time. Although there is no 4m2 rule for gatherings in homes, it would still be prudent to encourage people to continue to practise social distancing and hand sanitisation in-home gatherings.
  • The maximum number of people allowed to attend a religious service is no longer capped at 50, but is now determined by the size of the premises. Ministers and wardens ‘must not allow persons on the premises if the size of the premises is insufficient to ensure that there is as least 4m2 of space for each person on the premises’.
  • In calculating the space available for each person under the 4m2 rule, the following areas are to be included in the calculations: 

           a)  if the size of the premises is not more than 200 square metres of floor space, the entire premises;

           b)  if the size of the premises is more than 200 square metres of floor space, only those areas that are open to the public.

          This will probably mean an increase in capacity for small church buildings (i.e., less than 200m2).

  • Those “engaged in work on the premises” are not included in the calculations of the space available for each person on any premises and the number of persons on the premises.  
  • The maximum number of people who may attend a wedding in a church or public venue is now only limited by the 4m2 rule. 
  • Weddings in a private residence are capped at 20 people (or less if there is not 4m2 per person).
  • Contact details are still required to be recorded for all services and it is still not recommended that congregational singing take place. Contact details are now only required from one member of a discrete group visiting together. 
  • Having a COVID-19 Safety Plan is now mandatory for religious services.
  • Congregations using community centres or schools are also subject to the requirements of the COVID-19 Safety Plan for Places of Worship.

A COVID-19 Safety Plan is a mandatory requirement for all services and gatherings at a place of public worship.

Please note that according to the COVID-19 Safety Plan for Places of Worship developed by NSW Health congregational singing is to be avoided and solo singers are to maintain at least 3m physical distance. Singing with facemasks is not a current alternative.

All the resources for developing a COVID-19 Safety Plan are here. You can download a template for a wedding safety plan here and for a funeral here.

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

External groups can use places of worship for other activities as long as they are approved by the Rector and Wardens and they comply with the 4m2 rule and have a COVID-19 safety plan.

There are some exemptions to the 4m2 rule including:
•    Services to assist vulnerable members of the public 
•    Early education and care facilities

Visits to households

Gatherings in homes with up to 20 visitors are now permitted. There is no 4m2 rule applicable to gatherings in homes. However, we continue to encourage people to practice 1.5m social distancing and good hygiene in home group gatherings.

What hasn’t changed?

  • 1.5m physical distancing is expected outside of those from the same household.
  • Good hygiene and handwashing are to continue to be encouraged.
  • Communal areas are to be cleaned and disinfected regularly.
  • People who are unwell should be instructed to stay home and be tested if appropriate.
  • All those who attend our gatherings must provide their name and contact details, including a telephone number or email address. This is to be recorded and kept for 28 days.

What should we do if we want to commence gatherings?

  • You are required to read and comply with the COVID-19 Safety Plan for Places of Worship produced by NSW Health. A copy needs to be kept on the premises and be made available for inspection by an authorised officer as requested. The Safety Plan is here.
  • Think through how to apply this in your particular context.
  • Have the Rector and wardens document the decision to recommence gatherings.

In addition, it may be helpful -

  • To develop a communication plan (for our people and the public) outlining what our gatherings will be like and the conditions of entry.
  • To visualise what systems will need to be developed as a person enters the building, has their details recorded, participates in the gathering and then leaves the site e.g. How will we do welcoming and ushering? How will we record contact details? Who will oversee the cleaning? Who will be responsible for ensuring we do not exceed the maximum number of people allowed to meet?
  • To provide training for staff and volunteers in advance of gathering to ensure a clear understanding of the systems and guidelines in place.
  • To engage with the members of your church via things such as focus groups or surveys to inform your thinking about the next steps for church.

FAQs

GENERAL

GATHERINGS

FINANCES

Frequently Asked Questions

Where will I find ongoing information and updates?

The Archbishop will be communicating with rectors, wardens each Tuesday. There will be regular updates via the Sydney Anglican COVID 19 page. Please visit this site daily for ongoing information and answers to FAQs.  We encourage you to check the page maintained by NSW Health as well as our own page at sydneyanglicans.net/covid19.

While we have overview information on this page, further detail on some answers can be found on the Parish Portal at SDS

If you have further questions, please contact our Parish HR Partner Vikki Napier, who has been designated as a point of contact for parishes for any queries related to the impact of COVID-19 on parishes and parish ministry. Vikki’s email.

How do I calculate the maximum capacity of a room?

The maximum number of people allowed to attend a religious service is no longer capped at 50, but is now determined by the size of the premises. Ministers and wardens ‘must not allow persons on the premises if the size of the premises is insufficient to ensure that there is as least 4m2 of space for each person on the premises’.

In calculating the space available for each person under the 4m2 rule, the following areas are to be included in the calculations: 

(a)     if the size of the premises is not more than 200 square metres of floor space, the entire premises;

(b)    if the size of the premises is more than 200 square metres of floor space, only those areas that are open to the public.

This will probably mean an increase in capacity for small church buildings (i.e., less than 200m2).

Those “engaged in work on the premises” are not included in the calculations of the space available for each person on any premises and the number of persons on the premises. 

Can we hold a church service?

Yes, as long as we observe the NSW Government’s requirements. However, this is a decision for the Rector and the Wardens (you are not required to do so) and we still need to be mindful of those in our churches in the high-risk category (e.g. those over 70).

Can we have multiple groups of 50 meeting on our property in different spaces?

Yes, the limitations apply per gathering on the premises. You can have 2 or more such gatherings simultaneously, provided they are kept separate and you keep separate records for each and apply the 4m2 rule.

Can we celebrate the Lord’s Supper?

Yes. If you decide to conduct a service of the Lord’s Supper you may do so as long as you do not use the common cup and you observe appropriate hygiene measures e.g. consider using tongs and pre-filled individual common cups.

Can we have morning tea/supper/meals?

Yes, but you must ensure that there is at least 4m2 per person and that food service is done hygienically and in line with the COVID-19 Safety plan for Places of Worship.

What about gatherings in households?

Up to 20 people are permitted to visit a household at any one time (outside of the exceptions mentioned above). This provides many different opportunities for gathering and ministry.

If you decide to host a gathering in a house, it would be good to consider the following things 

  • Requiring people not attend if they are feeling unwell or exhibit any COVID related symptoms
  • Encourage people not to attend if they are in a high-risk category (e.g. over the age of 70 or with a pre-existing medical condition)
  • Encourage good hygiene and reduce the chance of infection by
    • Providing access to hand-washing and/or hand sanitiser.
    • Minimising the need to open doors and touch surfaces.
    • Having one person allocated to serve food and drinks with appropriate precautions (e.g. gloves and tongs).
    • Encouraging people to bring their own water bottle.
    • Setting up the room to allow 1.5m between people.
    • Having clear signage for areas of the house you don’t wish people to enter (to minimise the need for cleaning after the meeting).
    • Cleaning frequently touched areas and surfaces before and after the gathering.

What is Contact Recording?

The NSW Government requires the recording of contact details of those who attend a religious service, wedding or funeral that we conduct. These details, a person’s name and their telephone number or email address, are to be kept for 28 days. If people arrive in a discrete group, then only the details for one adult member of that group is required.
 

Can wardens and parish council meet in person?

Yes, but the NSW Government’s advice is to use telephone or video for essential meetings where practical.

Can we conduct an AGM in person?

The NSW Government’s advice is to use telephone or video for essential meetings where practical. The Standing Committee has provided the following guidelines in a circular that you may wish to follow with regards to the options available for an AGM. Link via the SDS Parish Portal.

One such option is to allow an AGM to be held remotely through the use of technology. A special guide has been prepared to assist parishes to use Zoom to hold their Parish AGM in compliance with the requirements of the ordinance. The guide is here. There is also a template of Powerpoint slides here.

Can we recommence our Youth & Children’s Ministry?

Yes. The following guidelines have been supplied by Youthworks. For more information please contact Ed Springer (email).

Youth and children’s gatherings can be run on church property, allowing for at least 4m2 in each space used, from July 1.

This includes creche, preschool groups and playgroups.

There was an important update on social distancing and young people in the July 1 Covid-19 safety plan. These are the main points:

  • Students (Young people aged 0-18) do not need to follow strict adult physical distancing guidelines but should follow good hygiene practices.
  • Staff (leaders) should continue to maintain 1.5m physical distancing from students where practical.
  • All regular children’s and youth ministries are considered Education Programs.

All youth and children’s gatherings should follow the NSW Health checklist for places of worship (updated July 1), have an up to date Covid-19 Safety Plan (July 1) for each gathering and follow the guidelines below.

  • Adopt good hygiene practices. 
  • Designate the internal and external spaces that each gathering will used.
  • Record and store the contact details of those who attend.
  • Clean the surfaces of the defined space after each gathering.
  • Avoid corporate singing.
  • Communicate the arrangements and guidelines with Parents/Caregivers.
  • Set up spaces and activities that enable 1.5m physical distancing to occur between adults, and between children and adults. For example, games involving physical contact between adults and children should be avoided. Games involving physical contact between young people are allowed. Enforce 1.5m distancing for leaders’ meetings.
  • Implement drop-off and pick up procedures that minimise the opportunity for adults to congregate together.
  • Wipe down all balls, equipment and toys used at the end of the gathering. You may choose to rotate equipment when running consecutive gatherings. Toys that cannot be cleaned and sanitized should not be used. (eg. Play doh). Children’s books, like other paper-based materials such as mail or envelopes, are not considered a high risk for transmission and do not need additional cleaning or disinfection procedures.
  • Restrict the swapping of phones and devices between all participants.
  • Avoid handing physical objects such as Bibles and handouts and money.
  • Distribute food hygienically, maintaining social distancing. 
  • Require participants to bring their own water bottle

Youth gatherings of up to 20 people can be run in households from June 13. Whilst there is no 4m2 rule for gatherings in homes, 1.5m social distancing should be practised between adults. There should be a minimum of 2 adults present at all times and record and store the contact details of those who attend. Further guidelines for gatherings in households can be found here

Can we recommence SRE?

Yes. The NSW Department of Education announced on June 11 that face to face SRE can resume from the start of term 3 (20 July 2020). Guidelines for Returning to SRE can be found here.

Can camps happen?

Yes. Church, Youth and Children’s Camps can run at conference centres from June 12.

  • While accommodation is exempt from 4m2, arrangements should allow people to maintain 1.5m social distancing.
  • Dining rooms must respect 4m2 for adults and children.
  • Indoor recreation facilities must respect 4m2 and can have no more than 20 participants, plus the instructor and any assistants, per space when used for sport or recreational activities
  • Indoor areas used for other purposes must comply with one person per 4m2. This includes any indoor meeting spaces.
  • The Church should develop a Covid-19 Safety plan for the camp.

Conference centres are able to provide their COVID Safe Business Plans to churches on request.

Please contact the conference centre, such as Youthworks Conference Centres, to discuss your planned camp.

I have another question that isn’t in these FAQs?

For any further enquiries please contact Vikki Napier, our Parish HR Partner via email.

What about giving?

The closure of our weekly gatherings will have significant financial implications for many of our churches. We encourage Rectors and wardens to communicate with their parishioners to urge them to commence online giving if they are not doing so already. For congregational members who are unable or unwilling to give electronically, we encourage you to suggest means by which these parishioners can continue to provide ongoing support for the ministry of their church. Wardens may need to consider whether there are expenses or projects which can be postponed, to ensure that it is possible to continue paying clergy and staff.

What financial assistance and flexibility is available to parishes?

Almost all parishes should receive direct financial assistance of $20,000 over the course of the year as a result of the Government’s Boosting Cash Flow for Employers measure. In addition, most parishes will be eligible for the JobKeeper Payments scheme for their eligible employees. On 24th April, the Federal Treasurer issued this statement regarding clergy and JobKeeper -

"Religious practitioners: Changes will allow JobKeeper Payments to be made to religious institutions in respect of religious practitioners (with the exception of those that are students only), recognising that many religious practitioners are not ‘employees’ of their religious institutions."

There is further information at this SDS page (sign in required).

The Standing Committee has provided some relief and flexibility for parishes, by –

·         not requiring payment of the Church Land Acquisition Levy (2% of net operating receipts)

·         not making the April PCR charge payable in April, instead apportioning the amount across the rest of the year

·         allowing parishes in financial difficulty to move away from Direct Debit for the monthly PCR charges.

Further (and constantly updated) information on each of these matters is available when signed in on the SDS COVID-19 FAQ page.

Do parishes have any insurance that covers us if all our hall bookings are cancelled?

There is no insurance protection under the Diocesan Insurance Program to compensate parishes for loss of rental income due to their inability to lease or rent premises due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.

The government announced support for apprentices and trainees. Is this a benefit that our parish can access for our student ministers?

No. Students at Moore College are not apprentices or trainees for this purpose. An apprenticeship or traineeship involves entering into a Training Contract with the assistance of an Apprenticeship Network Provider and nominating a Registered Training Organisation. Parishes will be able to qualify for some other assistance under the Government’s Boosting cash flow for employers measures. See the FAQ about assistance available to parishes from the Government.

I have questions about Property use by third parties and licensing?

Visit the FAQs at sds.asn.au.

I have questions about staff leave and entitlements?

Visit the FAQs at sds.asn.au.