Application within Dioceses – Recommended Standards
These recommended standards to dioceses are intended to:
- assist dioceses to develop and communicate local arrangements
- enable dioceses to continue to provide spiritual and pastoral care
- support parish and chaplaincy teams maintain their presence as agents of spiritual and pastoral care in a way that both protects those engaged in ministry and protects those who need their support and help.
Church communities are places where people gather for worship and fellowship.
On 8 May 2020 the Commonwealth Government announced an easing of restrictions relating to religious services, weddings and funerals. The 3 Step Framework for a COVID Safe Australia will be implemented as determined by State Governments.
The following restrictions apply to religious services, including weddings and funerals under the 3 step framework.
Weddings may have up to 10 guests in addition to the couple and the celebrant
Funerals may have up to 20 mourners indoors and 30 outdoors.
Religious gatherings may have up to 10 attendees.
Every gathering must record contact details
Weddings may have up to 20 guests in addition to the couple and the celebrant.
Funerals may have up to 50 mourners Religious gatherings may have up to 20 attendees.
Every gathering must record contact details
Allow gatherings of up to 100 people Every gathering must record contact details
Review the State government determinations for information on when these steps come into effect
Until the 3 step framework is implemented the current Commonwealth government directive is that places of worship are to be closed to the public. State governments require that church buildings are closed and not available to the public for private prayer.
Weddings may be conducted but limited to five persons only: the couple, the celebrant and two witnesses. Social distancing recommendations must be complied with.
Funerals may be conducted but limited to a total of 10 persons excluding the person/s necessary to conduct the service e.g. the celebrant, funeral director and assistants. Social distancing recommendations must be complied with.
Live Streaming and Video Production of Worship Services
Access to online church services will support those who are unable to attend church services due to illness or self-isolation.
Dioceses should consider coordinating advice to churches on live streaming or posting videos of services online in line with Commonwealth and state or territory directives.
On 3 April 2020 the Commonwealth Government determined that churches and other places of worship will be considered places of work so that services can be live streamed to the community. This will ensure that religious services, including Easter services, remain accessible to congregations. National Cabinet agreed that providing access to services is important for a sense of continuity and social connection.
Services may be conducted and live streamed providing only essential staff are present, the church remains closed to the public, and social distancing principles are adhered to.
Any church wishing to conduct religious services, including Easter services, must use the minimum number of participants required to deliver and live stream the service which may include a priest, attendants, organist, videographer and sound recordist.
Links to state directives on the restrictions on gatherings indoor and outdoors can be accessed here.
See the link below on the Church of England site which provides practical advice on live streaming.
Note: Information on links to livestreaming of services should not be promoted on websites and Facebook pages that are open to the public. Parishes should only send the link by email to parish member or members of its private Facebook group. For further information see: https://www.episcopalnewsservice.org/2020/03/31/zoombombing-comes-for-houses-of-worship/?utm_source=ENS+English&utm_campaign=b90a5e42e2-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2020_03_31_07_57&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_d473cad2d8-b90a5e42e2-136082053
Copyright and Privacy
The following issues will also need to be considered:
CCLI live streaming licence
Each church that intends to conduct live streaming must have its own individual CCLI Church Copyright live streaming licence. This licence allows you to stream or podcast your live-recorded worship service music on your church’s website or other streaming services. Group licences are currently not available. Further details see https://au.ccli.com/copyright-licences/
Copyright for the use of material from A Prayer Book for Australia should be acknowledged during livestreaming and a graphic added to end of any published videos.
Use of music during livestreaming services
Those who are using contemporary songs will need to purchase a licence via CCLI as noted above. Those who are using traditional hymns played live rather than recordings should not require permission if the music is in the public domain, which much of it is.
Choral music will need to be in the public domain otherwise a license will be required. Parishes should seek the advice of their person who usually coordinates music in their parish in this regard.
Use of video during livestreaming services
Showing film scenes, videos or clips will require specific licencing to prevent against any breaches of copyright.
Privacy law should also be considered in the case of livestreaming. Ensuring that you have the permission of those who may appear in your livestream will minimise the risk of a privacy breach.
The Australian Copyright Council’s video livestreams and copyright information sheet is here.
Social Distancing Guidance for Restricted Worship Services
Although there are no public worship services, churches may consider conducting livestreaming of services, or performing restricted weddings and funerals (as allowed under Commonwealth and state legislation).
All government directives concerning public gatherings and the precautionary measures outlined concerning church services should be applied when conducting special services. This includes allowing an area of 4 square meters per person and 1.5 meters distance between individuals.
Churches are required to ensure that the number of persons attending a special service meets directives in relation to these gatherings and may need to pastorally support those who will be required to adjust guest lists to small numbers of family and friends.
In addition to these requirements, the guidance is to:
- Provide hand sanitiser or hand washing facilities at the entrance to the location
- Display messaging reminding parishioners of key hygiene and social distancing practices
- Request that people who are unwell or have potential symptoms of COVID-19 to refrain from attending, or to leave if they demonstrate symptoms
- Suspend handshaking or other direct physical contact before and after services and during the sharing of the Peace and throughout the service
- Design arrangements for people to receive communion which restrict proximity to each other and the need to touch surfaces
- Ensure ministers of the Eucharist practice wash their hands/ use sanitiser before and after distributing communion
- Temporarily suspend the sharing of the Common cup
- Offer Communion in one kind only to all communicants i.e. the consecrated bread/wafer/host.
- Wafers should not be placed in mouths unless this is the only way an individual can receive communion due to disability – then wash/sanitise hands immediately before and after
- Intinction is not recommended
- Suspend direct physical contact as part of a blessing or “laying on of hands”. This includes the practice of foot washing on Maundy Thursday
- Suspend circulation of materials such as hymn books. Utilise projection of orders of service and hymns wherever possible.
Self distancing procedures should be put in place and additional measures are advised in relation to baptism.
- The Priest must wash their hands before and after making the sign of the cross on the candidate’s forehead
- Where possible, if the candidate is a baby or small child, they should be held by the parents/godparents rather than the priest taking them in their own arms
- It is preferable for water to be poured on the candidate’s head using a baptismal shell
- If chrism/oil is to be used the priest should use a spoon or similar implement
Baptism by Immersion should not take place as this represents a transmission risk.
Church Activities Engagement and Outreach
Parish Staff and Volunteers
Dioceses and church workplaces should also note that people are required to work from home when possible. Some States provide exemptions for volunteers as well as staff to attend work if that work cannot be performed form home and diocese should refer to State and Territory directives here.
Parishes should be directed to suspend face to face meetings of parish council and church committees.
Additional consideration may need to be given to involvement of vulnerable individuals in any church activities. This includes people aged 70 and over, those with chronic illness over 60 and Indigenous persons over the age of 50, who are now advised to self-isolate.
Church communities offer a range of ancillary activities and the operation of these should be reviewed in line with health directives on social distancing and restricting public gatherings.
Youth groups and Sunday School
It is recommended that gatherings of young people be suspended.
Social and outreach activities
It is recommended that all social and outreach activities (Alpha courses and similar) are suspended.
Opportunity Shops and Community Pantry
It is recommended that opportunity shops be closed and receipt of goods be suspended. Only a skeleton team of volunteers should be asked to sort existing goods.
Where parishes provide community pantry, offering free food and supplied to those in need, it would be an important community service to maintain if possible. Parishes may be encouraged to review their volunteer capacity to continue this service, subject to access to supplies.
Visits to people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 or who are self-isolating as a precaution should be suspended, however other ways of providing support should be considered, such as by phone or email. Single people, the elderly and those who are isolated may need particular attention.
Parishes may wish to check that contact details for parishioners are up to date and confirm their permission to hold them. This could include contact details for online and electronic communication. Some parishes are also making arrangements to deliver hard copies of sermons, prayers and notices to people who may be housebound and are not digitally connected. The telephone prayer chain may be another method of maintaining pastoral care.
It is important that in offering practical support, church members and clergy are aware of the need to protect themselves.
It is particularly important to be vigilant and follow government directives and the advice of facility staff when conducting visits to people in aged care homes or hospitals.
There is some variation across state and territory directives concerning the Stage 3 stay at home restrictions, particularly as they apply to home visits. The 2 person rule must also be applied. It is advised to refer to the most recent state and territory legislation. See link here.
For example, under the NSW legislation, pastoral care visits are considered reasonable grounds for leaving one’s premises, providing there is adherence to the 2 person rule and other social distancing requirements. In Victoria, there is an exemption to the Stage 3 isolation requirements for the purposes of attending work (whether paid or voluntary) including for charitable purposes but not specifically for pastoral care visits. Queensland legislation provides an exemption for conducting business and activities deemed under the legislation as essential. Non-essential businesses and activities may be conducted online. See table.
Liturgical and Prayer Resources
Dioceses should develop and communicate a range of liturgical and prayer resources to be available online or to be shared with parishioners through mail or other distribution. It is important to note that many of our congregations will not have access to online communications.
A prayer in time of epidemic disease
Lord Jesus Christ, healer and friend,
come and care for all of us
through the danger and uncertainty
of the coronavirus epidemic.
To people who are sick, bring healing.
To people who are displaced, isolated,
or cut off from family, friends or work,
bring comfort and companionship.
Work with medical staff as they care for the sick,
and protect them from harm.
Give skill and fruitful research to scientists
as they work on treatments and a vaccine.
To public health authorities, give wisdom
to decide the best ways to manage
both this crisis and our anxieties.
When communities are fearful,
give a calm spirit,
and kindness to neighbours and strangers.
Through this testing time,
and through all the risks we face together,
teach us once again how we can love one another
as you have loved us. Amen.