Growing concern over the spread of COVID-19 in Sydney's North has led to stern warnings from the New South Wales Premier, impacting local churches.
In response to the Premier's statement and after considering health advice, Archbishop Glenn Davies has written to rectors and churchwardens across the Sydney Diocese, advising churches in the Northern region to suspend face-to-face meetings, for others to consider whether they should go online-only or at the least use facemasks, and for those outside Greater Sydney to maintain COVID-19 protocols.
Speaking about the new public health order just issued, Dr Davies said "The Order imposes restrictions on the Northern Beaches community, similar to those we had in March this year. However, it was clear from the Premier’s remarks that Metropolitan Sydney could easily be affected, if this outbreak was not contained, and she encouraged refraining from non-essential travel."
Dr Davies said that, in consultation with the Bishop of North Sydney Chris Edwards, he is instructing all rectors in the Northern Region to close their church doors tomorrow, Sunday 20th December, and hold their services online. "I believe there is a civic duty that befalls us to widen our compliance to the Public Health Order, so that neighbouring suburbs equally share in restricting their liberties for the common good, so that we might prevent the spread of the coronavirus any further. ‘When one member of the body suffers, we all suffer’ (1 Corinthians 12:26)." the Archbishop said.
Therefore, it behoves us all to be vigilant, patient and willing to sacrifice our personal liberties for the sake of our community, whose welfare we seek (Jer 29:7)
"For the rest of Metropolitan Sydney, I encourage rectors to consider whether or not it is appropriate to revert to online services tomorrow. The Dean of Sydney and I have made the decision that St Andrew’s Cathedral will go online tomorrow, rather than meet physically, given its prominence in the city and the geographical spread of the people who attend. However, if you choose to hold physical services tomorrow, you should exercise prudence and strongly encourage your people to wear masks to church, given the serious nature of the outbreak in Avalon. Churches in the mountains and the Wollongong Region, being fairly distant from the Northern Beaches, should maintain their normal COVID-19 protocols for church."
“Our prayer is that the Public Health Order will not need to be extended beyond Wednesday nor be widened in its scope to other parts of Sydney. With Christmas upon us next week, the Government is trying its best to enable some semblance of celebration both for churches and families. We are grateful for their acknowledgment of the importance of this significant festival. Therefore, it behoves us all to be vigilant, patient and willing to sacrifice our personal liberties for the sake of our community, whose welfare we seek (Jeremiah 29:7).”
On Sunday, the government brought in tighter restrictions, to be reviewed on Wednesday. Indoor venues, including churches, have returned to the four-square metre rule, with face masks and no singing.
Venues will also be capped at a maximum of 300 people.