A few months ago, we turned upside down the way we gathered and worshipped. It all happened in a very short period requiring very long hours for some. It took us some weeks to adjust to the new way of being. We are now working towards being together in gathered worship again. It too has many challenges, particularly as our circumstances change.
For example, we all remain concerned about increasing cases of infection in Victoria. At the same time today, there is some discussion of smaller venues being able to double the number of people able to gather at one time.
I am aware that there is some keen for us to return to gathered worship. I continue to ask for your patience as we make deliberate and careful preparations for an expected return in mid-July. At this stage, we continue to consider how we will ensure compliance with State Health Directives and the care for the more vulnerable in our church. It is possible that when we start, we will hold only one service on a Sunday and one service on a Wednesday.
On Friday we held the funeral of Dorothy Marsden in St David's. Dorothy was much loved by her family, her friends at St David's and the Ipswich Girl's Grammar School community. At 101 years old, there was much to celebrate about her life. She was committed to her family, friends, school and church. It was the first live-streamed funeral that I have celebrated at St David's and is still available for viewing through our website.
On Monday we will also host the funeral Beryl Erskine. Beryl's family are strongly connected to the life of our church. A number of her Great Grandchildren have been preparing for their first communion at St David's this year. This funeral can also be viewed via a link provided on our website.
These funerals have provided us with an opportunity to test the seating arrangements in our church to suit a limit of 40 people. To do this, we have moved all the pews from the body of the church. These pews are now stored in the old Sanctuary in the western end of the church. We have then placed forty individual chairs for seating 1.5m apart. This just one part of the necessary restrictions we will be asked to follow when we return to gathered worship.
We appreciate that the last few months have been challenging for us all. We know that many are looking forward to being able to gather as a church in worship once more. We are equally aware that some remain at risk and will hope to stay connected in whatever ways we can find. It is in this context that we are implementing our next steps towards a mixed model of worship. These steps include the commencement of gathered worship on Sunday 19 July at 9.30am and Wednesday 23 July at 9.30 am.
In line with the recent easing of COVID 19 restrictions, our parish is signing up to the Industry Plan for Places of Worship. This Industry Plan is now the only way a church may offer gathered worship in any form. Although restriction easing was announced on 3 July, the actual industry guideline is not yet finalised, and so some aspects might yet change. We have chosen to approach this return to gathered worship cautiously and in a stepped manner.
We believe that we take our part in ensuring the gains we have made as a community by following carefully the Health Directives issued by the State Government. As part of this commitment, we are required to appoint COVID Warden(s) "to champion safe practices ... and monitor and enforce compliance measures." To assist these Wardens, we ask you to be aware of the following;
- All individuals must stay away if feeling unwell, even if mildly so.
- Maintain Physical Distancing of 1.5m to the extent possible. This means we are to avoid shaking hands, hugging or kissing as a greeting, farewell or during the greeting of peace.
- Practice good hygiene habits, including the use of hand sanitiser before entering the church.
- Please avoid queuing or crowding especially at the church entrance.
We are setting in place several changes that will assist us in complying with the Industry Plan. These include;
- The current maximum congregation is 40
- There are 40 individual chairs appropriately distanced in the nave of the church. People living in the same household can sit together.
- We will hold only one service on Sunday and one service on Wednesday to allow proper cleaning between services
- All liturgy and hymn lyrics will be displayed on the screens although singing is now allowed.
If you intend attending the service you must register through our website or by phoning the parish office. For those who do not have internet access, we ask that you call the office by 10 am Friday for the Sunday service, or 10 am Tuesday for the Wednesday service and leave your name and how many people will be attending with you.
We are required to remind people who are at a higher risk of serious illness that they should stay at home and avoid contact with others. Those identified at risk include those over 65 with chronic medical conditions, people over 70 years old and those with compromised immune systems. The decision to attend ultimately rests with the person in the high-risk group and should be made with advice from one’s own GP.
It is a requirement that we keep a record of persons who have attended each service. These records are kept for 56 days for contact tracing if required by the relevant authority. Please be assured that all documents are kept in a secure location.
Please contact us with any concerns or questions regarding any of the matters raised in this letter. Our aim as a Parish is to continue to find ways to moving closer to God and each other, even in these times.
The Rev'd Michael Stalley, Priest in Charge
Karen Green, Warden
When I was at High School, I remember a thing called the Metre ruler. It was meant to be used for drawing straight lines on Chalkboards. This Metre ruler was also regularly used for a purpose it was not designed; ensuring physical distancing between amorous teenagers. In these circumstances, this implement was useful in creating distance and ensuring compliance.
It is curious to me that I am now observing a similar artifact entering use in our churches. It is 50 cm longer but similarly effective in ensuring compliance with distancing requirements.
At St David's, we are committed to playing our part towards further easing of restrictions. This commitment means doing what we can to comply with the current Queensland Government Health directives as they apply to us. As we move towards Gathered worship, the wardens and I ask that if you choose to come to gathered worship, you will willingly comply with these guidelines.
In the next week, the wardens and I will prepare detailed correspondence regarding our planned return to offer gathered worship in St David's during July. This letter will be informed by the most recent Government Health Directive and our industry approved plan. We continue to follow our plan to move towards providing gathered worship from 19 July.
In summary, we intend on beginning with one service on Sunday morning and one service on Wednesday morning. The maximum number of people who can attend will be 50. We will be required to maintain strict physical distancing (hence the introduction of the newly improved Metre Ruler). Other health directives we will need to follow include;
- no handshaking, hugging or kissing
- registration to attend
- individual seating that is separated by 1.5 m (unless you are with people from the same household)
- no queuing at the entrance
- following the guidance of appointed COVID safety wardens
- electronic donation options only
We remain aware that even when we can return to gathered worship, many will remain at risk. We are taking a cautious step by step approach, so what we start we can continue.
“We are facing tough financial moments now as [we have] no group meetings, nowhere to take our goat or chicken since the markets are closed and the hotels too. We are just praying to God to help the situation pass so that life goes back to normal,” says Christine, a member of the Anglican Development Services, Eastern (ADSE). This story about the Anglican Board of Mission’s work with one of its partners in Kenya provides a typical picture of how COVID-19 is affecting people in many poorer countries of the world, and what action people are taking to deal with the challenges. It shows the value of working long-term with communities to develop relationships of trust, and strong community structures. [Read the article here](https://anglicanfocus.org.au/2020/06/09/communities-coming-together-to-fight-covid-19-in-kenya/).