COVID-19 Church Worker Frequently Asked Questions
Assume all information below is current unless pending changes are indicated.
(December 4 2020)
- Archbishop's letter to clergy Dec 3 here.
- Singing is back from Monday.
- This page and FAQs being progressively updated as more detail becomes available.
- December Southern Cross out now.
- Health Department releases web page on what you can and can't do.
- Singing with masks permitted outdoors. See Singing FAQ.
- New FAQ section on QR codes here.
- Latest COVID-19 hotspots.
- Archbishop reads BCP services, see the prayer page.
Return to Gathering
Where to find key information
- The Health Department has established a one-stop web page for what you can and can't do under the rules.
- The latest Public Health Orders can be found here.
- The latest COVID-19 hotspots are listed here.
- The most recent COVID-19 Safety Plans for Places of Worship, Funerals, Memorial Services and Wedding Ceremonies can be found here.
- Mandatory COVID Safe registration can be done here.
- In the case of a COVID incident in your parish, please refer to the COVID Incident Plan for Parishes which can be downloaded here.
- You’ll find advice from Youthworks in the FAQ section below.
- If you have any questions please send your enquiries to Vikki Napier.
- How do I calculate the maximum capacity of our premises?
- Can we have multiple groups meeting on our property in different spaces?
- What are the requirements for recording contact details?
- How can I use a QR Code to collect contact details?
- Can we sing?
- Can we recommence our Youth & Children’s Ministry?
- Can we recommence SRE?
- Can camps happen?
- Can we celebrate the Lord’s Supper?
- Can we conduct baptisms?
- Can we gather after church meetings? What is mingling?
- What about gatherings in households?
- Can wardens and parish council meet in person?
- Can other groups use church premises?
- What about giving?
- What financial assistance and flexibility is available to parishes?
- Do parishes have any insurance that covers us if all our hall bookings are cancelled?
- The government announced support for apprentices and trainees. Is this a benefit that our parish can access for our student ministers?
- I have questions about Property use by third parties and licensing
- I have questions about staff leave and entitlements?
- I have another question that isn’t in these FAQs?
Frequently Asked Questions
Where will I find ongoing information and updates?
The Archbishop will be communicating with rectors, wardens each Tuesday. There will be regular updates via the Sydney Anglican COVID 19 page. Please visit this site daily for ongoing information and answers to FAQs. We encourage you to check the page maintained by NSW Health as well as our own page at sydneyanglicans.net/covid19.
Further detail on some answers can be found on the Parish Portal at SDS.
Our Parish HR Partner Vikki Napier has been designated as a point of contact for parishes for any queries related to the impact of COVID-19 on parishes. Vikki’s email.
How do I calculate the maximum capacity of our premises?
Information on how to calculate the capacity can be found here.
Information on the current maximum capacity for churches can be found here.
Can we have multiple groups meeting on our property in different spaces?
Yes, the capacity limitations apply per gathering on the premises. You can have 2 or more such gatherings simultaneously, provided they are kept totally separate and you keep separate records for each and apply the 4m2 rule. Each building must have a separate ingress and egress and staggered meeting times. Details of the limitations here.
What are the requirements for recording contact details?
The latest advice regarding recording contact details can be found here.
How do I use a QR Code to collect contact details?
Advice on how to implement a QR Code Check-in system can be found here.
Advice on how to implement a QR Code Check-in system can be found here.
Can we sing?
According to the Public Health Order to be published and in force on Monday Dec 7, congregational singing will be permitted.
Up to 50 singers will be permitted indoors, subject to COVID-safe requirements. There is no limit outdoors.
The audience or congregation may participate in the singing, but is advised to wear a mask when indoors.
Government advice can be found here
Can we celebrate the Lord’s Supper?
Yes. If you decide to conduct a service of the Lord’s Supper you may do so as long as you do not use the common cup and you observe appropriate hygiene measures e.g. consider using tongs and pre-filled individual common cups.
Can we conduct baptisms?
Yes. Churches can conduct baptisms as long as appropriate measures are taken to conduct these services in a COVID-safe way. Such things as washing/sanitising hands, social distancing, having the parent hold the child during infant baptisms and having a parent or appropriate person support the candidate in the water during full immersion baptisms should be considered. If there are multiple baptisms - it is recommended that different water be used - perhaps by pouring water from a jug. If you are uncertain whether your measures are adequate, please contact our Parish HR Partner Vikki Napier. Vikki’s email is here.
Can we gather after church meetings? What is mingling?
To mingle is to move among and engage with others at a gathering. This is seen as a possible way of spreading the coronavirus. As a result, the Premier has advised members of a congregation not to mingle, before, during or after a service.
What does this mean for our gatherings?
It means that while we still want to encourage people to interact during and after church, we should do it in a way that minimises mingling.
Clear encouragement and guidelines from service leaders will help to do that. This includes encouraging people to talk to the people near them rather than getting up and moving to another area of the building.
Encouraging people to stand or sit in pre-allocated, socially distanced areas after church will also be helpful, as will having morning tea served to those areas rather than having people line up.
For those who want to talk to people they are not sitting next to in church, one idea that has been found to be helpful is to have designated areas with seating for people to move to that will allow them to catch up with others. An announcement explaining the function of these ‘breakout’ spaces will help people to do this.
What about gatherings in households?
Up to 50 people are permitted to visit a household at any one time. This provides many different opportunities for gathering and ministry.
The latest rules are here.
If you decide to host a gathering in a house, You may want to consider the following things
- Requiring people not attend if they are feeling unwell or exhibit any COVID related symptoms
- Encourage people not to attend if they are in a high-risk category (e.g. over the age of 70 or with a pre-existing medical condition)
- Encourage good hygiene and reduce the chance of infection by
- Providing access to hand-washing and/or hand sanitiser.
- Minimising the need to open doors and touch surfaces.
- Having one person allocated to serve food and drinks with appropriate precautions (e.g. gloves and tongs).
- Encouraging people to bring their own water bottle.
- Setting up the room to allow 1.5m between people.
- Having clear signage for areas of the house you don’t wish people to enter (to minimise the need for cleaning after the meeting).
- Cleaning frequently touched areas and surfaces before and after the gathering.
Can wardens and parish council meet in person?
Yes, but the NSW Government’s advice is to use telephone or video for essential meetings where practical.
Can other groups use church premises?
External groups can use places of worship for other activities as long as they are approved by the Rector and Wardens and they have provided a satisfactory COVID-19 safety plan.
Can we recommence our Youth & Children’s Ministry?
Yes. The following guidelines have been supplied by Youthworks on November 3. For more information please contact Ed Springer (email).
Youth and children’s gatherings can be run on church property in multiple groups of up to 300 people, or one person per 4 square metres of space, whichever is the lesser, from October 23.
A maximum of 5 leaders/staff can be designated as ‘staff’ necessary for the conduct of, or assisting in the conduct of, the service. All other leaders required to meet the minimum ratios for children’s and youth ministry must be included in the 300-person or 4m2 limit.
For multi-age gatherings where children and youth are present (e.g., regular Sunday services with children’s programs), young people aged 0-18 and their leaders are included in the 300 person/4m2 limit.
Physical distancing and young people
All regular children’s and youth ministries are considered education programs for physical distancing requirements. This includes creche, preschool groups, playgroups, children’s groups, youth groups and small groups. Young people aged 0-18 do not need to follow strict adult physical distancing guidelines but should follow good hygiene practices. Staff (leaders) should continue to maintain 1.5m physical distancing from students where practical.
The 4m2/300 person limit and physical distancing guidelines determine how spaces can be used. Let’s say your church building has 400m2 of publicly accessible space. That means that up to 100 people can be in any room in the building as long as they are 1.5m from each other. This requirement for physical distancing doesn’t apply to children or youth. What this means that if you have 70 adults in your main hall (physically distanced), you could fit up to 30 children or youth in other rooms in the building, as long as the leaders remain physically distanced. Or you could fit up to 100 children or youth in rooms in the building, as long as the leaders remain physically distant. All rooms utilised should be well ventilated.
For multi-age gatherings where adults, children and/or youth are present in the same space, everyone should physically distance in households. Having children seated at the front of church (not physically distant) whilst adults are physically distant is not an option at this time.
In relation to children’s ministry to primary school and preschool-aged groups, from September 24, singing, group repetition, and recitation may occur. This advice follows the advice of NSW Health for education on September 24 2020 (read here). One adult leader can lead the singing as long as they are 3-5 metres from children and other adults.
A group of 5 can sing at youth group (high school) following the NSW Health guidelines for singing.
All youth and children’s gatherings should follow the COVID Safety Plan for places of worship and follow the guidelines below.
- Adopt good hygiene practices.
- Designate the internal and external spaces that each gathering will use.
- Record and store the contact details of those who attend.
- Clean the surfaces of the defined space after each gathering.
- Communicate the arrangements and guidelines with Parents/Caregivers.
- Set up spaces and activities that enable 1.5m physical distancing to occur between adults, and between children and adults. For example, games involving physical contact between adults and children should be avoided. Games involving physical contact between young people are allowed. Enforce 1.5m distancing for leaders’ meetings.
- Implement drop-off and pick up procedures that minimise the opportunity for adults to congregate together.
- Wipe down all balls, equipment and toys used at the end of the gathering. You may choose to rotate equipment when running consecutive gatherings. Toys that cannot be cleaned and sanitized should not be used. (eg. Play-doh).
- Children’s books, like other paper-based materials such as mail or envelopes, are not considered a high risk for transmission and do not need additional cleaning or disinfection procedures. Handouts and worksheets can be used. You may choose to have a set of Bibles for each youth/children’s group.
- Restrict the swapping of phones and devices between all participants.
- Distribute food hygienically, maintaining social distancing.
- Masks are not recommended/required for children, youth and leaders in age-specific ministries. This follows the current advice for Government schools.
Children’s and Youth gatherings run in households are limited to 20 young people and leaders from July 24. While there is no 4m2 rule for gatherings in homes, 1.5m social distancing should be practised between adults. There should be a minimum of 2 adults present at all times and record and store the contact details of those who attend.
Children’s and Youth social activities run offsite in outdoor environments are limited to 30 young people and leaders from October 23.
Can we continue SRE?
Yes. The NSW Department of Education Covid-19 advice for families (updated August 17) state that SRE lessons can continue with restrictions. Guidelines for SRE including current restrictions can be found here.
Can camps happen?
Yes. All camps should develop a covid safety plan or plans for their event with the conference centre being used.
I have another question that isn’t in these FAQs?
For any further enquiries please contact Vikki Napier, our Parish HR Partner via email.
What about giving?
The closure of our weekly gatherings will have significant financial implications for many of our churches. We encourage Rectors and wardens to communicate with their parishioners to urge them to commence online giving if they are not doing so already. For congregational members who are unable or unwilling to give electronically, we encourage you to suggest means by which these parishioners can continue to provide ongoing support for the ministry of their church. Wardens may need to consider whether there are expenses or projects which can be postponed, to ensure that it is possible to continue paying clergy and staff.
What financial assistance and flexibility is available to parishes?
Almost all parishes should receive direct financial assistance of $20,000 over the course of the year as a result of the Government’s Boosting Cash Flow for Employers measure. In addition, most parishes will be eligible for the JobKeeper Payments scheme for their eligible employees. On 24th April, the Federal Treasurer issued this statement regarding clergy and JobKeeper -
"Religious practitioners: Changes will allow JobKeeper Payments to be made to religious institutions in respect of religious practitioners (with the exception of those that are students only), recognising that many religious practitioners are not ‘employees’ of their religious institutions."
There is further information at this SDS page (sign in required).
The Standing Committee has provided some relief and flexibility for parishes, by –
· not requiring payment of the Church Land Acquisition Levy (2% of net operating receipts)
· not making the April PCR charge payable in April, instead apportioning the amount across the rest of the year
· allowing parishes in financial difficulty to move away from Direct Debit for the monthly PCR charges.
Further (and constantly updated) information on each of these matters is available when signed in on the SDS COVID-19 FAQ page.
Do parishes have any insurance that covers us if all our hall bookings are cancelled?
There is no insurance protection under the Diocesan Insurance Program to compensate parishes for loss of rental income due to their inability to lease or rent premises due to the current COVID-19 pandemic.
The government announced support for apprentices and trainees. Is this a benefit that our parish can access for our student ministers?
No. Students at Moore College are not apprentices or trainees for this purpose. An apprenticeship or traineeship involves entering into a Training Contract with the assistance of an Apprenticeship Network Provider and nominating a Registered Training Organisation. Parishes will be able to qualify for some other assistance under the Government’s Boosting cash flow for employers measures. See the FAQ about assistance available to parishes from the Government.
I have questions about Property use by third parties and licensing?
Visit the FAQs at sds.asn.au.
I have questions about staff leave and entitlements?
Visit the FAQs at sds.asn.au.