IMPORTANT COVID-19 NOTICE: UPDATE ON GATHERING – 14 May 2020
We have received important new guidance from the UCA NSW/ACT Synod on the Government’s plans to relax restrictions around COVID-19. I am sure that many of us have been watching media announcements, wanting to know when gatherings for worship, Bible Study and other activities can resume. We are not there yet. Synod and Presbytery leaders from across the state have carefully and prayerfully discerned together that – whatever may now be ‘permissible’ – the Church’s priority is the safety of our church family and community, especially the most vulnerable among us.
The consensus decision was that we should continue NOT TO MEET in person for services of worship or face-to-face meetings in our churches.
Exceptions have been made only for weddings, funerals, pastoral visits by Ministers or Pastoral Visitors, and essential welfare programmes – subject to State Government restrictions, social distancing, hygiene and other requirements.
We need to understand that, even though some of our groups may be small enough to gather (including gathering in homes) there is still a risk, particularly in sharing spaces. The work required to ensure safety – cleaning, disinfecting surfaces and objects touched, attendance tracking and so on – cannot be taken lightly. Even singing, which so many of us are missing, has been found to pose a particular risk of transmission.
Synod reminds us that ‘we must avoid framing our situation in terms of a false choice between reviving the economy – or our churches – and saving lives. Our commitment to supporting the safety and well-being of people must remain our priority… Re-opening our buildings and resuming gatherings prematurely, even with the practice of social distancing, could unfairly force people into a choice between personal health and the desire to re-join the beloved congregation.’
The Synod guidance therefore strongly advises us to continue to suspend face-to-face worship and other gatherings; and to continue to deliver worship – and offer pastoral care, social contact and welfare support – by other means.
At Bathurst Uniting, we have all made wonderful efforts over the last two months to worship ‘virtually’ together; to use this time to deepen our personal faith journeys; and to reach out to one another and our neighbours in safe and creative ways. We have juggled ‘physical distance’ with ‘social connection’ and ‘community care’ – and grown in grace, love and strength as a result. Let’s hold firm – and continue on this path for as long as it takes, until we can gather again in full confidence of safety.
Presbytery and Synod leaders continue to meet each week (as does our own Coronavirus Response Team, reporting regularly back to Church Council and Elders). We will continue to monitor future developments and keep you informed.
From this week’s Lectionary reading: ‘I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and your love toward all the saints. And so I do not cease to give thanks for you, as I remember you in my prayers.’ (Ephesians 1: 15-16)
Rev. Claire Wright, Bathurst Uniting Church