COVID-19 Church Worker Frequently Asked Questions
Assume all information below is current unless pending changes are indicated.
- Archbishop’s letter 26 Feb.
- Singing back, with downsides. Read here.
- Updated FAQ section on masks here.
- Updated FAQ section on paper here.
- Updated FAQ section on children and youth regulations from Feb 25 here.
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 can be found here, for Funerals and Memorial Services here and Wedding Ceremonies 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.
Latest Summary from Feb 26 -
- Weddings and Funerals are capped at 300 persons, subject to the 2m2 rule
- Churches’ capacity is based on the 2m2 rule, with no cap
- But if singing, congregation to wear masks and 4m2 rule
- Up to 30 song-leaders/performers
- Up to 50 visitors to a home (e.g., home bible study groups) are permitted
- More details below
- Do we have to wear face masks?
- Can we hand out paper items such as outlines?
- Who is in Greater Sydney?
- 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?
- What about 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? Can we serve morning tea/meals?
- 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?
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.
Do we have to wear face masks?
From Feb 12, Face masks are no longer mandatory in places of worship.
See below for mask wearing while singing.
Do we need to wear masks while presenting at church?
Attention should still be paid to proper hygiene when it comes to the sharing of microphones or lecterns.
Can we hand out paper items such as outlines?
Bibles, outlines and pencils as well as paper items such as the Southern Cross magazine can now be distributed. Sharing of such items among several congregation members should be avoided. Items that are reused such as Bibles and pencils should be cleaned at least daily.
Who is in Greater Sydney?
Greater Sydney includes the following areas - Bayside, Blacktown, Blue Mountains, Burwood, Camden, Campbelltown, Canada Bay, Canterbury-Bankstown, Central Coast, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Hawkesbury, Hornsby, Hunter’s Hill, Inner West, Ku-ring-gai, Lane Cove, Liverpool, Mosman, North Sydney, Northern Beaches, Parramatta, Penrith, Randwick, Ryde, Strathfield, Sutherland Shire, Sydney, The Hills Shire, Waverley, Willoughby, Wollondilly, Wollongong and Woollahra.
How do I calculate the maximum capacity of our premises?
Information on how to calculate the capacity can be found here. For those in Greater Sydney the number of people you can place in a room is determined by a combination of the 2m2 rule and 1.5 metres physical distancing. There is no cap on numbers for church services, subject to the previous rules.
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 2m2 rule. Each building must have a separate ingress and egress and staggered meeting times. Details of the limitations here.
What if I have a large venue or business with different areas. Can I have different COVID Safe Check-in QR codes for different entry points/floors?
Yes, you can get different COVID Safe Check-in QR codes for different areas within your venue or business.
To get different QR codes, you need to register all the different areas/entry points as COVID Safe at nsw.gov.au. When registering the different areas, you must ensure you enter detailed address information to define the areas/entry points e.g. Smith Street entry, General Hotel, Sydney OR Level 4, 111 Long Street.
What are the requirements for recording contact details?
All churches in Greater Sydney are to have a QR code from Service NSW for recording contact details. Churches should have received a code when registering COVID-plans, but if that has been lost, then go to this link to retrieve it. If parishioners do not have a smartphone or the app, contact details can be recorded via a webform. To do this an internet-connected device such as a laptop, tablet or phone will be needed.
FAQs regarding the Service NSW COVID Safe check-in, including privacy information, is available here.
There is also a requirement to designate an after-hours contact for COVID safe businesses. You can do that 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.
Can we sing?
From Feb 26, Up to 30 song leaders/performers/choir members can sing indoors. They are to be 1.5 metres from each other, facing the same direction and at least 5 metres from the audience.
Can congregations sing at church?
Yes. From 27 February 2021 singing is permitted by congregants as long as a face mask is worn during the singing (unless exempt) and the 4m2 rule is applied. Everyone attending the service must wear a face mask during the singing. The requirement to wear a face mask does not extend to other parts of the service.
If churches decide not to sing, they can continue to apply the 2m2 rule.
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.
In addition, the latest COVID safe plan for Places of Public Worship requires the congregation to remain seated during the gathering. This needs to be taken into account in administering the Lord’s Supper.
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.
Can we serve morning tea/meals?
Food can be served if done in a COVID-safe manner. There is general advice on food preparation and service here.
What about gatherings in households?
Up to 30 people are permitted to visit a household at any one time. 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.
What about Youth & Children’s Ministry?
Youth & Children’s Ministry advice
The following guidelines have been supplied by Youthworks on Feb 25, 2021. For more information please contact Ed Springer (email).
Youth and children’s gatherings can be run on church property with a maximum limit determined by 1 person by 2 square metres of space, from February 12 across NSW.
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.
In relation to children’s ministry to primary school and preschool-aged groups, from December 21, singing, group repetition, and recitation may occur. This advice follows the advice of NSW Health for education (read here). Song Leaders can lead the singing without a mask as long as they are 3-5 metres from children and other adults. Other adult leaders or parents should wear a mask.
Singing in youth ministry gatherings can occur from February 26. People over the age of 12 should wear a mask when singing indoors. Song leaders (maximum of 30) do not need to wear masks but should be 3-5m from the rest of the group. Masks are not required when singing outdoors.
If wanting to sing in youth ministry and multi-age gatherings (e.g. Play groups), the maximum limit of the gathering has been reduced to 4m2 from February 26. Young people in age specific ministries do not need to physically distance when singing.
Masks and young people
Face masks are not mandatory at places of worship from February 12 except where social distancing between adults is not possible or for group singing as outlined above.
All children’s and youth ministries must keep an electronic record of the name, contact number and entry time for all leaders and young people for a period of at least 28 days. Churches can use the Service NSW QR code, Service NSW webform, or an alternative electronic format (eg. Elvanto).
All youth and children’s gatherings should follow the COVID Safety Plan for places of worship, (good hygiene, contact recording, cleaning) and follow the guidelines below.
- 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.
Children’s and Youth gatherings run in households are limited to 50 visitors (young people and leaders) in NSW. 1.5m social distancing should be practised between adults. There should be a minimum of 2 adults present at all times and they should record and store the contact details of those who attend.
Children’s and Youth social activities run offsite in outdoor environments are limited to 50 young people and leaders in greater Sydney from January 29. The limit outside greater Sydney is 100 visitors.
Can we continue SRE?
Yes. 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.
For camps being held at a caravan park or camping ground, these additional measures should be taken:
1) Develop a covid safety plan or plans with the caravan park or camping ground being used - https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/covid-safe/caravan-parks-and-camping-grounds
2) Maximum capacity for communal areas such as dining spaces are subject to the 2m2 Rule.
3) Sleeping arrangements for tents and cabins.
a) Record occupants in each tent and the location of each tent.
b) Where possible, minimise number of occupants and maintain 1.5m distance between bedding.
c) Maximise airflow whenever possible, both day and night.
d) Only occupants are to venture into tents.
e) Regularly clean common touchpoints such as zippers/doors.
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.