Archbishop Davies has urged the use of masks in churches which have reopened, saying “we should not ignore” an extra level of safety in the fight against COVID-19.
Dr Davies has written to churches with advice, after spending time in talks with Government ministers and officials about how churches can best mitigate the risk of transmission.
"If we were unaware of the potency of the Coronavirus to spread its infectious menace within our community, we should have no doubt now as to the significance of the word ‘virulent’," he said, referring to what he called the “dire” situation in Victoria.
May God have mercy on us, as we seek to proclaim in season and out of season, in church and out of church, the glorious gospel of our Saviour...
The Archbishop noted that, unlike Victoria, face masks were not compulsory in NSW but the general advice was that, where social distancing is not possible, a face mask is recommended, as it is for indoor settings with a higher risk of transmission.
"Even though we have been able to achieve social distancing in our congregational gatherings, the recent outbreaks in churches in NSW have added an extra layer of risk mitigation to the Government’s advice, which we should not ignore,” he told church leaders in a letter.
However, he added, "While we should be encouraging the wearing of masks in church, it is not mandatory. We must not, therefore, prohibit entry to those who choose not to wear a mask to church."
Advice on singing
Dr Davies said he had received advice on singing, which contradicted previous assurances.
"It is now strongly recommended that only one or two singers should be allowed in church services, socially distant from each other and at least 3m from the congregation. I had previously advised at least 4m from the congregation and that remains my advice for abundant caution. Hence, no choirs should sing in church.
“For those who are prerecording their services, choirs of a small number can still sing, using the social distancing direction of my letter of July 21."
The Health Department has produced some advice on singing here.
Youthworks has updated advice on masks in children and youth ministries at the Sydney Anglicans COVID-19 page here.
Dr Davies renewed his appeal for Christians in NSW to pray for Victoria, especially setting aside 1900 hours (7 pm) daily to specifically pray against the spread of COVID-19.
“May God have mercy on the people of Victoria,” he said. “May God have mercy on us, as we seek to proclaim in season and out of season, in church and out of church, the glorious gospel of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. And may God be pleased to hasten the discovery of a vaccine for the Coronavirus."