Archbishop Glenn Davies has welcomed the lifting of numbers allowed for church gatherings, weddings and funerals saying a return to public worship will bring 'relief, joy and comfort' to many people.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Health Minister Brad Hazzard have announced that from Monday, up to 20 people can attend weddings, 50 at funerals and 50 at places of worship, as long as congregation adhere to the four square metres social distancing rule.
“We know how important these services are to individuals and families but as we ease restrictions further, we must remember to keep one another safe,” Ms Berejiklian said.
Our first concern is public safety and where risk cannot be minimised, then some churches will not be able to re-open their buildings.
The Health minister unveiled a checklist to help places of worship create a tailored COVID-19 Safety Plan to ensure they can keep participants as safe as possible.
The announcement follows consultations with Archbishop Davies and other church leaders.
"I recognise the challenges that the Government faces in loosening restrictions while maintaining a COVIDsafe environment. This has been a delicate balancing act and I appreciate the level of consultation and the careful yet flexible approach of Premier Gladys Berejiklian, Health Minister Brad Hazzard and health officials." Dr Davies said.
"Our first concern is public safety and where risk cannot be minimised, then some churches will not be able to re-open their buildings," he said. "But I was able to assure the Premier that Anglican churches are well prepared to return to normal services, within the limits of the 50 person maximum, appropriately distanced. Hand sanitisers will be available at each entrance, along with signage indicating that anyone with symptoms such as fever or cough, should not attend. Church premises will be thoroughly cleaned between services and designated ushers will record the contact details of each person who attends."
Congregational singing not possible
The NSW Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said while people would be familiar with many general measures in the plan, others are more specific to places of worship.
“Places of worship will be asked to find alternatives to practices that might spread the virus, like group singing, sharing books and even passing around the collection plate to reduce infection risks,” Dr Chant said.
We are grateful for the relief, joy and comfort that many parishioners will feel in meeting again in public Christian worship.
"We realise that this is not the normality we enjoyed in 2019, as congregational singing will not be possible, the greeting of peace and the distribution of Bibles, hymn books and paper service sheets will not resume," the Archbishop said. "However, we are grateful for the relief, joy and comfort that many parishioners will feel in meeting again in public Christian worship. Some congregations, of course, will be too large to return to public worship, but will continue to provide church online until it is safe for the whole congregation to gather as one."
"We continue to pray for our Federal and State Governments as they navigate the terrain of a coronavirus world and provide us with wise advice and prudent measures to protect the safety of all."