Opening after Corona Virus Lockdown
An ongoing collection of material about opening the church buildings beyond the COVID-19 lockdown.
1. DHHS cleaning advice March 20
2. Synod advice May 14
- Duncan Mcleod wrote:
- This afternoon we received a letter from the Moderator encouraging us as UCA congregations to carefully consider the ways in which we will maintain the safety of our members, even while the Victoria Government begins the loosening of restrictions related to COVID-19. I have attached the two associated documents prepared by the Synod that help us prepare for the time when we do start meeting in person and visiting our members again. I remind you that the General Secretary Mark Lawrence yesterday strongly advised congregations not to start meeting in person this Sunday. Please read through the current Frequently Asked Questions document, and the Checklist for Congregations.
3. Notes from Synod Zoom meeting May 15
4. Meeting of Property / Ministry / Council representatives May 19
On May 20th Neil, Joanne (office), David Morgan (Safe church/ CC secretary), Glyn (CC chair) and Warren (Property) [Re-opening Task Group – possible name] met to consider and plan for re-opening of the church complex.
This followed extensive consultation with Synod and Presbytery.
Church council’s responsibility and role is outlined below by the Presbytery.
The core message this week is that church councils are responsible for careful planning and implementation of safe practices, well before opening up our buildings, running church gatherings in homes, or restarting pastoral visitation. The Presbytery, and the Synod, are encouraging congregations to keep their members safe rather than rushing into opening up our buildings. (Port Phillip East Presbytery: ‘Preparing for the transition period’ Zoom Meeting 15 May).
Please read above and a number of other relevant documents before our meeting. They have been attached above.
We also read:
Values and principles (courtesy of John Squires, Canberra Region Presbytery)
Gathering for worship is important, but safety of people is more important.
Safety of people is more important than income.
Weakest or most vulnerable are the test for any decision we make
Relationships with others are our first priority.
Loving our neighbour takes priority over programs and activities
We have a commitment to the common good—the good of all people in society
We need to ensure the safety of vulnerable people in leadership (ministry leaders, both ordained and lay)
(Port Phillip East Presbytery: ‘Preparing for the transition period’ Zoom Meeting 15 May).
4.2. Notes from meeting on May 20th
4.2.1. When are we able to re-open the church?
Presbytery continues to recommend all meetings/ groups meet on-line
Now to end of May – legally 0 groups because more than 10
Church Council to reconsider possibilities when government regulations are relaxed and Presbytery sees safer way forward.
4.2.2. Process for groups to re-open
- Single point of approval: CC to approve
- Apply to CC in writing
- Between CC meetings CC to delegate re-opening decisions to working group – Neil, Glyn (CC Chair), David Morgan (Safe Church), Warren (Property), Joanne (Office) [Re-opening Task Group]
- After approval Property Committee Chairperson and Office Manager will communicate directly to group leader re requirements
Notice sent to all group leaders to outline requirements e.g.
For each gathering Leader personally responsible for recording attendance details, ascertaining numbers, ensuring no one unwell, cleaning afterwards, etc.
Toilets high risk: need to be cleaned after every group uses.
Kitchen closed; review when appropriate
Discourage vulnerable people from putting themselves at risk
Before opening building to groups: deep clean over 2 weeks
- Property (Fairlie) to organise roster of volunteers – in small groups – 5-6 (?) at a time
- Then professional cleaners do toilets
- Each group cleans toilets/ door handles, etc after each use (Like a shift change in a workplace) – entrances are high risk because all pass through.
- Toilets cleaned commercially 6 days per week
4.2.4. WORSHIP: some ideas/ possibilities from meetings with presbytery
- Shorter services
- Singing and choirs problematic because breath projected and spreads more virus.
- singing or hum?
- Serious thought will need to be given to the practicalities around consecutive worship services
4.2.5. HIRE GROUPS
- start later
4.2.6. Staffing of office
Suggested Joanne return to office when church groups operating
If they begin in smaller numbers, consider returning part time
4.3. Recommendations to CC
From this group.
- As we are one congregation, we should not recommence worship until circumstances make it possible for all services to begin
- Complex remains closed – no usual activities
Groups such as, UCAF, Badminton and Table Tennis, Playgroups, Friday Bible Study, Choirs, LeisureTime, Men’s Group, Cooee, Hub not to commence until after state laws allow meetings of groups up to 50 people, but Church Council will also decide based on age of guests, volunteers, high risk individuals and support persons. Space requirements per person also relevant.
- Prioritise the vulnerable
- Each Church Group must seek permission to recommence and when approved the Office manager will issue instructions for that group. Church Council to consider all Synod recommendations on risk and age.
- Authorise Re-opening Task Group to manage between CC meetings
- Involve Communications Committee using all channels
- Need to help everyone understand where we are
- Design and create signage, forms, etc before re-opening
Glen Waverley Uniting Church
20 May 2020
5. Synod advice May 21
6. Government update 24 May
One politician's summary of the changes included:
Frustratingly, the legal directions which underpin these changes are yet to be released by the Victorian Government, which makes it difficult to answer detailed questions about their impact. I expect they will be posted here closer to June 1 when they take effect.
Health Department now has: Places of worship can open for private worship or small religious ceremonies for up to 20 people in a single undivided indoor space, subject to the four square metre rule plus the minimum number of people reasonably required to perform the service or ceremony.
7. Hospitality Industry Guidelines 26 May
- From Monash City Council.
- Pertains to our kitchen.
- Applies from 1 June.
- Limit of 20 people with 4 square metres each, which limits Fellowship area to 10, and Chapel to 15.
8. Church Council meeting May 28
Council adopted the recommendations above from the Re-opening Task Group and the following statement.
Having considered the post June 1 regulations from government, and advice from Synod, Church Council agreed to the following guidelines to apply from June 1 to June 22. Given the requirements of fewer than 20 persons and 4 square metres per person in a room of a church building, no meetings will be held at the church during this time. The complex remains closed.
While it may be legal for people to meet in homes, with fewer than 20 persons able to maintain 1.5m between them, that does not mean that it is advisable. Certainly no member should be pressured to attend. Whether to attend should be a free and considered decision of each member, considering their own health, exposure and vulnerability situations. Church Council cannot endorse such meetings as church groups.
9. Synod advice May 29
10. Advice on room sizes
From WarrenGreenwood 3 Jun 2020. Updated June 13.
Persons at 4sqm/person
6x9 = 54
6x6.5 = 39
6x6.5 = 39
9.5x4 = 38
18.5 x 12 = 223
11. Synod advice June 4
12. Presbytery Zoom seminar on OH&S / COVID-19 June 5
You are welcome to share the link to the video with other members of your congregation.
Some points of advice relating to rental groups and contractors
- If your buildings are being used by different groups, including your own members, the congregation (church council in particular) is responsible for overseeing risk management, including the orientation/induction of contractors and rental groups.
- Cleaning and sanitisation is required between each group using any part of the building.
- Once you have updated contractors and rental groups on our new standards, they need to do their own risk assessment and management plan and follow it.
- It would be wise for congregations to be able to have a way to monitor agreements, including attention to entrance and exit processes, standards of cleaning and sanitisation, physical distancing, keeping of contact registers, and attention paid to food hygiene. This can be done through a signed checklist and the occasional spot check.
- Rental agreements and licenses can be amended to include the new requirements.
- Should a COVID-19 outbreak occur in a way that is linked with our building, a professional deep cleaning process is required. This can costs thousands of dollars. We are also at risk of being fined if we are found to have been negligent.
- The Presbytery is aware that there is often pressure on congregations to open up their buildings, from rental groups, and from a financial perspective. However, the principle of keeping people safe is still our key priority at this time. Take the time required to assess risks, address them and only proceed once you’re sure that you have people, plans and resources needed to open up again.
Elnura Dulakovic, Synod OH&S officer, can be contacted by email at <elnura DOT dulakovic AY victas DOT uca DOT org DOT au>
A user guide to opening our buildings will be ready on the Vic Tas Synod website next week.
13. Synod advice June 11
14. Government changes from June 22, announced June 14
- "From 11:59pm on 21 June, Places of worship can open for private worship or small religious ceremonies for up to 50 people, as well as the minimum number of people reasonably required to perform the service or ceremony. The one person to four-square metres rule needs to be followed. Groups of family or friends can be no larger than 20 people and be divided into separate seating areas like a balcony or tier"
- Capacities of our rooms under the 4 sqm per person are given at 10 above.
- Increased number was reversed on June 20.
15. Synod advice June 18
See VIC-COVID-FAQs-June-18.pdf, including:
Synod’s Crisis Management Team is seeking further clarity to be able to provide safe guidelines for morning/afternoon tea and the sharing of meals. Until then, this kind of social gathering should not occur.
16. Government changes June 20
In response to rising numbers of cases, the government has now advised: Restaurants, pubs, auction halls, community centres, libraries, museums and places of worship will maintain their 20-person limits until at least July 12.
17. Synod advice June 22
18. Synod advice June 25
19. Synod advice July 2
20. Revised advice of the renewed restrictions July 8
- If you live in the Melbourne metropolitan area you need to stay at home.
- There are four reasons that you can leave home:
- Shopping for food or other essential items
- To provide care giving, for compassionate reasons or to seek medical treatment
- For exercise (outdoor exercise only, with only one other person or members of your household)
- Work or study, if you cannot work or study from home
- Otherwise, you must stay home.
- Religious ceremonies and private worship can only occur online, with a maximum of five people to conduct the ceremony.
- Weddings can be held with up to five people (the couple, two witnesses and a celebrant).
- Funerals can be held with up to 10 people plus those required to conduct the service.
- Community venues will be closed, except for essential public support services like food banks.
- You cannot have visitors to your home except for caregiving or compassionate reasons or receiving services. You can no longer visit friends and family who live at another household, except to see your intimate partner, or for caregiving or compassionate reasons, or providing a service, or for work purposes.
For further information, see the DHHS web site: https://www.dhhs.vic.gov.au/updated-restrictions-1159pm-wednesday-8-july
21. Synod advice July 9
22. Some recent research
- Includes a conventional surgical mask only stops 30% of the small aerosol droplets studied here for inhaled breath; for exhaled breath the efficacy is much better.
23. Synod advice July 16
24. Council decisions July 22
- Church Council agreed that the building would remain closed and services streaming throughout August.
- Church Council accepted that it will not be possible to plan and safely run a fete in October 2020.
25. Synod advice
26. Advice on Congregation meetings and Council elections
- We sought advice on voting from Presbytery, in view of the UCA emphasis on meetings as discernment, and the consequent prohibition of absentee voting.
- Duncan Maclead replied:
I sought Isabel Thomas Dobson’s advice on this issue. Here’s her response. "No, there has been no exemption from voters being present. But I would understand that a suitable confidential process either electronic or by post for those who have been present to hear and participate in the discussion would be included in being part of the meeting. The issue of those without network access is more difficult. It would depend on the sorts of issues at a congregational meeting, whether they are formal decision making meetings or information sharing ones as to how to respond." At the Presbytery we are working with the principle of only people participating in the Zoom meeting being able to vote, whether it’s in the meeting (Zoom polls) or later (eballot.com). Postal voting would be OK if people phoned into the meeting to listen in and be part of the conversation.
27. Synod advice July 30
28. Synod advice August 6
- Addendum: It turns out we don’t need to put the employer signature in at the top. Just the employee or volunteer’s signature. Synod fills that bit in as well as the two parts at the bottom of the form.
29. Synod advice Aug 13
30. Recovery action plans
Our plan for streaming was sent to Synod Aug 15, and acknowledged.
- A funeral was held Aug 18, and the appropriste action plan was sent to Synod.
A more succint account of all our plans is at CovidSafePlans.
31. Synod advice Aug 20
32. Council meeting Aug 26
- Council agreed that the buildings will remain closed throughout September.
Other decisions are listed at HeadLines.
33. Synod Advice Aug 27
34. Synod Advice Sep 3
35. State Government Roadmap out of Stage 4
- Worship opens subject to "density quotient" from 23 November subject to case numbers. At 4sqm per person, that is 73 in church.
36. Synod advice Sep 10
- No use of church buildings until at least the end of November, except for live broadcast.
37. Church Council Sep 23
- Building closed through October.
38. Synod advice Sep 24
39. Presbytery summary of "Road map"
- Second Step – likely to be after 28 September
- Weddings on compassionate grounds only - with up to 5 people (including the couple, two witnesses and celebrant).
- Funerals allowed with up to 10 people (infants under 12 months of age or people required to conduct the funeral not included in the limit).
- Places of worship closed. Outdoor gatherings (not ceremonies) of up to 5 people, plus 1 faith leader, proximate to a place of worship, are allowed.
- Third Step – likely to after 26 October (Changed to 19 October if daily average number of cases in the last 14 days is less than 5 state-wide)
- Weddings with up to ten people including the couple and two witnesses. The celebrant is not included in the ten-person cap.
- Funerals allowed with up to 20 mourners can attend a funeral. Infants under 12 months of age or people required to conduct the funeral not included in the limit). You can travel to attend a funeral.
- Outdoor religious gatherings are allowed for up to ten people plus one faith leader.
- Places of worship can open for private worship.
- Private worship can be attended by households or bubbles plus a faith leader.
- Last Step – likely to be after 23 November but not before 3 weeks from Third step, ie not before 9 November (When there are no new cases for 14 days)
- Public gatherings: up to 50 people outdoorsWeddings allowed with 50 people (including the couple, two witnesses and celebrant), 20 in a private residence
- Funerals allowed with 50 people (infants under 12 months of age or people required to conduct the funeral not included in the limit), 20 in a private residence.
- Public worship (not including private ceremonies such as baptism, bar mitzvah) can resume in outdoor and indoor settings subject to density quotient. At GWUC this means 71 in the church.
- COVID Normal – When trigger points are met across the state AND there are no outbreaks of concern in other states or territories
- No restrictions on public gatherings but organisers encouraged to keep records of attendees
- No limits on weddings or funerals but organisers encouraged to keep records of attendees