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The latest changes to the Public Health Orders for Places of Worship have plunged churches into a further round of calculation and cleaning as the COVID-19 restrictions continue to ease.

The changes are being introduced amid continuing concern about the situation in Victoria where another wave of community transmission is emerging.

The big-ticket items from the July 1 changes include

  • The maximum number of people at a religious service is no longer capped at 50 but by the 4m2 rule based on the entire ‘publicly accessible area’ of the premises.
  • Children and youth are not required to practice physical distancing in Sunday school and youth group.

The number of people allowed per service is the key issue for many Sydney Anglican churches, some of whom are resuming physical services whereas others are planning to come back progressively over coming weeks.

“The way we calculate how many people can fit into church buildings is now determined by the whole building, not just the room that people are meeting in.”

How to calculate space

The Chair of the COVID-19 Taskforce, Bishop Gary Koo, says the new regulations may be significant for churches with larger buildings.

 “In the past, we just calculated how many people (could) fit into the main church auditorium. For example, it is was 200 square metres, we would say 50 people could meet in there based on the four square metre rule,” Bishop Koo said. “Now you can actually add the space in the foyer as well. So, if you have 100 square meters in your foyer - that would be a total space of 300 square metres, which, divided by four gives you 75. So that's a significant change. Having said that, those 75 people still need to be physically distanced, they need to be one and a half meters away from each other.”

Watch this video for a full explanation from the Chair of the COVID taskforce, Bishop Gary Koo

Opportunities in Youth and Children’s ministries 

The provisions of the latest Public Health Order present ‘wonderful opportunities’ for youth and children’s ministry according to Ed Springer, Head of Ministry Support at Youthworks.

“Physical distancing requirements, the 1.5-metre rule, have been relaxed for children and youth and now reflect the distancing guidelines for schools and childcare.” Mr Springer told sydneyanglicans.net. “This enables ministries where it was impossible to practice physical distancing such as creche, playgroup and preschool ministries to now return safely.  It also enables all Children and Youth ministries to resume normal programs and activities while practising good hygiene.”

Mr Springer notes that physical distancing requirements remain in place for adults. Leaders are to maintain 1.5 metres physical distancing from young children (where practical). This also applies to adult to adult interaction.

Watch this video for a full rundown of changes to Children and Youth COVID-safe practices from Youthwork's Ed Springer.

More details on the COVID FAQ page for church workers here.

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