The first step of the Government's 3 step Framework for a Covidsafe Australia is not the stage to open the doors to public Sunday gatherings, Archbishop Glenn Davies has advised in a letter to churches.

In New South Wales, Step One begins on Friday 15 May, allowing outdoor gatherings of up to 10 people and five visitors to households. For religious gatherings, up to 10 people are able to gather at a place of worship and weddings are expanded to 10 guests while funerals can have 20 mourners indoors and 30 outdoors.

Online services will be the staple diet for some time to come

"While it is legally possible to have a service for a maximum of ten persons, our strong advice is that Step One is not the time to re-introduce Sunday public worship, especially for senior members of our community who are among the most vulnerable," the Archbishop said.  "Online services will continue to be our staple diet for some time to come, though the opportunity for watching them will allow us to invite up to five others into our homes so that we can experience a little more physicality (even if socially distanced) in our fellowship."

Archbishop Davies in an empty St Andrew's Cathedral

The framework does not signal the end of the danger from Coronavirus and Dr Davies said no-one should be deluded in thinking that the fight is over.

We should not be expecting to return to ‘2019 Normality’ any time soon

"The coronavirus is still a very real danger for us all, so that the need for ongoing vigilance is paramount, especially keeping the rules about physical distancing of 1.5m, and practise good handwashing hygiene. My wife and I have downloaded the COVIDsafe App and I encourage everyone to do likewise. As Christians, we should be models of civil obedience in these measures."

Protecting the vulnerable

"When we reach Step Two, gatherings of up to 20 people will be permissible, but for most of our churches, this will not see a return to Sunday public worship. Nonetheless, it would be wise to be preparing now for the future, so that sufficient supply of hand sanitisers are procured, notices concerning COVIDsafe Community Guidelines are installed and a plan for the collection  and (temporary) storage of contact details of those attending any public gathering on church premises are in hand."

The COVID-19 Task Force, headed by Bishop Gary Koo, has been working on the framework called Return to Gathering and has issued the first step in an overview document, which allows a quick reference on the latest measures.

There is also a series of Frequently asked questions on the Diocese COVID-19 page.

"We should not be expecting to return to ‘2019 Normality’ any time soon," the Archbishop said.


Main photo: Simon on flickr