In all Victoria, clergy, church and congregational members must wear masks for anything outside the home, including weddings, funerals, home visits, livestreaming or recording services, and any other ministry. The exception is when masks inhibit speaking or singing for the person leading. For livestreaming and video, when keeping social distance of at least 1.5m, speaking or singing directly to camera without a mask is preferred. When not speaking or singing, a mask must be put back on.
STAGE 4 RESTRICTIONS
All church buildings and premises in the following list of local government authorities are under stage 4 restrictions.
- Mornington Peninsula
- Port Phillip
- Glen Eira
- Greater Dandenong
- Moonee Valley
- Yarra Ranges
- Hobsons Bay
The dates below for relaxing restrictions may be later if COVID case numbers do not reduce sufficiently in time.
All permitted work activity, by clergy, ASLMs, volunteers, outside of home requires a work permit. Work permits for clergy and ASLMs need approval by the bishop. Work permits for volunteers require approval by Vicars. All work permits need to be sent to Registry for recording. Work permits can only be for the permitted activities below. If unexpected activity arises, a new or supplementary work permit can be requested. There are significant fines for breaching work permits.
Clergy and ASLMs need to ask their bishop for a work permit template.
Work permits have been adjusted for after 13 September. Please contact your bishop or see earlier diocesan COVID update for the links to these.
Churches and Services
Until 28 September, churches and church buildings remain closed. From 28 September, outdoor gatherings on church property of up to five people plus a clergyperson or ASLM are possible.. From 26 October this will be eased to ten people, and private prayer inside the church would be possible within limits. At this stage, indoor services cannot resume until at least 23 November.
Currently permitted activity is limited to the following
- Video or livestreaming of services in church facilities with no more than 5 people all of whom are essential to the activity
- Participation in an essential support service (such as food or meals distribution)
- Funerals and weddings
- Hosting essential community support groups
Pastoral care visits, including for home communion, by volunteers or clergy, is not covered by a work permit but is possible as caregiving under one of the 4 reasons for leaving home. Such visits should be kept to a minimum.
All work other than above is to be done from home.
Church access is possible for above permitted activity, for cleaning, and tenants whose work is a permitted activity. Security checks and mail collection can be done but a work permit may be required for this. The church office or facilities are not to be used for general work, files, access to general printing, etc.
Funerals and Weddings
Funerals have a maximum of ten mourners until 26 October. Weddings cannot be held other than with permission for significant approved compassionate reasons, such as if one of the couple is dying, until 26 October. Clergy who decline weddings or funerals for personal safety reasons are urged to speak with their Area Dean to see if another minister can conduct the service.
Clergy who live onsite, at the same address as the church, can use their office in the church buildings. This does not apply if clergy live adjacent to the church but not at the same address. No other people can attend the church buildings other than for permitted activity.
Where churches are being used for permitted activity (funerals, recording services, material aid), then a professional lawnmower can be employed to mow lawns. Volunteers cannot come to do this. Clergy families who live onsite can mow lawns of the church as well as the vicarage.
The restrictions for church buildings and premises in Greater Geelong, Borough of Queenscliffe, Surf Coast, Golden Plains, Moorabool, Macedon Ranges and Murrindindi are below:
Work permits for outside metropolitan Melbourne
If someone living in metropolitan Melbourne needs to work outside metropolitan Melbourne, please use this work permit here.
Weddings and Funerals
No weddings or funerals can be held in private homes. Weddings in churches or non-domestic venues can have a maximum of ten people in attendance, plus the celebrant. Funerals can have a maximum of twenty mourners present plus the number of people required to lead the service. Clergy who decline weddings or funerals for personal safety reasons are urged to speak with their Area Dean to see if another minister can conduct the service.
Churches can host an essential public support service, such as a food bank or meals or material aid, and host an essential support group, such as AA or other support groups. The maximum attendance for these groups is the minimum of twenty or 4sqm per person.
Churches and Services
Parishes and church buildings outside metropolitan Melbourne can have outdoor services and gatherings on church property (or within 1km of the church) of up to ten people plus there must be once cleric or ASLM leading the gathering. If children are present there must be at least two adults also present.
Only parishioners living in regional Victoria can attend churches in regional Victoria.
The advice is to work from home where possible, but clergy and staff may work from the church with social distancing (do not share offices).
Churches can livestream or video services with a maximum of five people all essential for producing the service.
Home visits by clergy or pastoral workers should be at a minimum and only for important and urgent matters.
Private prayer can occur inside the church for household units and those in their social bubble, with up to ten people and one cleric or ASLM present to lead.
All parishes in the lesser restricted areas must refuse entry to anyone who lives in one of the stage 3 restricted areas other than for weddings or funerals or if that person is working for the parish. This is especially important if a parish straddles a stage 3 restricted area and a less restricted area.
Churches cannot have inside meetings, playgroups, youth groups, Bible study groups or other indoor activity.
IN GENERAL ACROSS THE DIOCESE
Everything in our church buildings needs social distancing, hand sanitiser on entry and exit, an attendance register, and regular and recorded church cleaning. Anybody who is not fully well cannot attend a church or activity for any reason.
Any parish open for services or events needs to have appointed a COVID Safe Officer and sent details of this person and the signed COVID Safe Checklist below to the registrar.
We are legally obliged to record only the first name of each person attending and their phone number for contact tracing. This record is to be kept for 28 days. We suggest having someone responsible for this and no sharing of pens.
Sign in Safe is a web-based application that allows people to scan a QR code as they enter and leave your church building. The application logs their name and phone number as well as the date and time of entry and exit. It can be used for services, meetings, or even to record staff coming and going from your site. The application has been developed by Bree Mills (Associate Minister at Glen Waverley) and a team of developers and designers. It is a low-cost, contactless solution that requires no new technology purchase and can be used on any site. All you need to do is print a provided poster with your unique IN and OUT codes and you will be set to go. There is a small set up cost, and a monthly fee to cover the technology and development. Email Bree Mills for more information email@example.com and see the website here.
If a room, hall or church is used only weekly, we still recommend proper COVID-standard cleaning even though the virus dies within three days. When spaces are used more frequently, cleaning needs to be in between each use, and strictly follow the COVID guidelines provided.
There are several reports of heightened danger of infection through singing indoors. For the time being, there are to be no choirs or singing groups or rehearsals. Congregational singing is to be kept to a minimum, preferably just a final hymn or song, or consider singing outside before or after services as outdoors is safer. Do not share microphones without wiping them with disinfectant between users. Masks should be worn during congregational singing.
For videoing or live-streaming a service with no congregation present, a few singers, standing at least 3m apart and not facing anyone, is acceptable, but still limit the amount of singing.
Live-streaming & Video recording
Please note that a normal CCLI licence does not include live-streaming so you will need to investigate purchasing that from CCLI.
We request that you record in your parish service register all online services, leaving attendance blank where unknown.
The bishops were booked for various parish visits in the months ahead. The bishops want to continue, where possible, the connection with the parish whether for live-streaming or a video or face to face. Do contact your bishop in advance to arrange this.
Pastoral Care by the Clergy
Personal pastoral ministry will be challenging in a lockdown and restricted access situation. It is certain that this ministry will be requested and clergy need to work through the hygiene and personal spatial separation issues that a pastoral visit or a home communion raise. Social isolation will increase the risk to mental health and general well-being. Pastoral visits ought to be with the residents’ agreement.
We expect clergy will maintain regular contact with parishioners by phone, skype or other digital means at the least. Masks should be worn and pastoral visits are not covered by work permits but visits for caregiving is acceptable as a reason to leave home.
Clergy in Risk Categories
Some clergy are in at risk categories because of health, family members’ health or age. Please advise your Bishop and Area Dean if you consider yourself to be in this category.
Baptism, Confirmation or Other Pastoral Services
If a baptism or one of the pastoral services is deemed necessary, which may include ministry to the near dying, please provide that ministry to take place privately with minimal attendance and complying with any regulations of a hospital or aged care institution and of course be very aware of hygiene, social distancing and so on.
If a confirmation or reaffirmation of faith is urgent because a person is near dying, please discuss with your bishop.
Home Communion and visitation
Clergy may still need to visit people, including offering home communion, in one kind. In such cases, the recipient cannot be in compulsory isolation and the recipient must be agreeable to the visit. This should only be for the people living in that home and not for a gathered group. The utmost hygiene of clean hands and distance must be maintained, not only for the safety of the person at home but for the clergy also. Be careful in sharing food or drink.
Rubbish Collection and Church Cleaners
Some parishes have paid rubbish collections. You may be able to negotiate deferral of contract or lower payments. Church cleaners on contracts ought to be stood down.
Parish op shops in metropolitan Melbourne are permitted to trade via click and collect in addition to online trading via post. Existing guidance concerning the need for a parish council resolution and the preparation of an Op shop COVID-safe plan apply. Op shop COVID-safe plans should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Op Shops in parishes in Regional Victoria are able to open from Monday, 14 September. Op shop COVID-safe plans need to reflect density quotients and cleaning requirements.
- Parish council has resolved to re-open its op shop.
- An op shop COVID-safe plan has been sent to email@example.com.
The parish op shop COVID-safe plan should be a brief document which has considered the vulnerability of staff and volunteers and demonstrates adherence to State Government regulations for social distancing and cleaning of retail premises.
Key Guidelines for op shop safety plan
- Consideration has been given to the vulnerability of staff and volunteers
- The number of people in a parish op shop must allow 4 square metres per customer with people at least 1.5 metres apart. For calculation, the area of the shop must be reduced by at least 30% to allow for shop fittings.
- Hand sanitiser must be available at the door, including staff exits.
- Someone must be responsible for counting people in the shop and ensuring the maximum number is not exceeded.
- A cleaning regime as per State Government regulations in maintained, recorded on a visible cleaning log.
- Donations of new stock, including clothing, should be stored for an extended period or cleaned before placing them on the shop floor.
Community Meals & Emergency Relief
Some churches provide meals for needy and homeless people, whether via an Op Shop or in the church facility. This ministry can continue. No gathering can continue. Proper hygiene and social distancing must be maintained by those providing the food and those collecting it. Please monitor collection of food so there is not a crowd gathered at any one time.
If your parish has an emergency relief programme, there will need to be a demonstrated risk plan provided to the appropriate organisation (Diocese, Anglicare Victoria, Brotherhood of St Laurence).
We realise that your usual volunteers may well belong to at risk groups (e.g. over 70 or with chronic health conditions), yet this may also be an opportunity for others from your parish or surrounding parishes who are not normally in a position to volunteer but are now available to help.
Occasionally a church may run what is more or less a commercial café. If licensed as such it can continue with social distancing for take-away and delivery but no sit-down food or beverage and no congregating of people in the café. In regional Victoria, a church café may now have limited seating. We encourage outdoor seating as much as possible.
Outdoor fetes and Markets in Non-Metropolitan Melbourne
Parishes are able to have fairs, markets or fetes. Assume social distancing will apply and have measures to enforce that. Have sanitiser available, a plan for handling cash and consideration for serving food and drink and keep watch on restrictions for sitting down to eat or drink.
In Metropolitan Melbourne, open air fairs or markets to sell take-away food or drink only are permitted.
Church Rental Groups in Non-Metropolitan Melbourne
Parishes should ask for a COVID-Safe plan from groups who rent church facilities and negotiate cleaning with those groups. Parishes should be confident each user group is adhering to government requirements for permitted work activity, attendance recording and limits, social distancing, hygiene and to the particular restrictions for their group. Ultimately, adherence to rules is the responsibility of those groups.
Tenants with exclusive use of a property (childcare, kindergartens) are responsible for their own COVID19 compliance. Licensees and hall hirers are expected to clean and disinfect before vacating the property each time they use it, with the parish maintaining regular cleaning including COVID19-compliant disinfection. Some suggested checklists are available here for licensees and hall users.
Church rentals, especially housing, may be affected by National Cabinet decisions to give protections to tenants and lessees.
- OTHER MATTERS
Online YouTube Service
A service is uploaded to https://www.youtube.com/AnglicanMediaMelb each week for people who have no online service in their own parish.
Given our buildings are now being used less or simply closed, please consider having equipment stored in other, safe locations. Regular security checks are acceptable across the diocese.
Parish Vacant Positions, Licences, Commissioning Services
Largely the diocese is going slow on filling vacancies during this crisis. Clergy licences due for renewal during the virus will mostly be renewed to June 2021 as a stop-gap measure. Clergy making oaths and declarations for licences may do that online with the bishop or Archdeacon.
For material on coronavirus in various languages, see: https://www.ethnolink.com.au/covid-19-coronavirus-translated-resources/
Coronavirus information in your language is also available via the SBS Radio website.
FINANCE & PAYROLL INFORMATION
- The diocese is registered for JobKeeper.
- If parish or clergy face financial hardship please speak with your bishop.
- Diocesan assessment relief of half this year’s assessment, up to a limit of $10,000 has been agreed by the crisis management committee. Details are being sent to parishes, Assessment for 2020-21 will be the same as originally determined for 2019-20.
- Reducing time worked or stipend. Some clergy and parishes are enquiring about reducing time worked or stipend. Please discuss this with your bishop.
- Benevolent programmes assisting people in need. We all know people suffering hardship as a result of the crisis, and many are now, or will be, in great financial need. Parishes can respond practically and compassionately by applying to the Melbourne Anglican Benevolent Society Inc. for an approved programme or fund, operated and administered at parish level. Programs approved by the Melbourne Anglican Benevolent Society are eligible to receive tax-deductible donations from any people, organisations and businesses. For full details and explanations click here to find the application form. To enquire or apply, contact Fiona Langton via firstname.lastname@example.org.
- ADF will consider a temporary suspension of repayments on parish loans, on application, as long as the parish is up to date with its repayments.
- Financial Counselling Victoria Helpline – 1800 007 007. Please be aware, for yourself and for parishioners, that if you have difficulty managing financial commitments financial counselling is available. All financial counselling services (including Anglicare Victoria) are registered with Financial Counselling Victoria. If you ring the above number they will link you with your nearest local service. The Financial Counsellor can work with the relevant authority to determine options and work with you to develop a plan and budget.
Diocesan Crisist Relief Grant
The Diocesan Crisis Management Committee of Archbishop in Council has allocated money for parishes with significant financial needs now and into the next twelve months. The next round of applications for this grant are due by mid-October to the Registrar, Malcolm Tadgell (email@example.com). Full details of requirements for applying can be found here.
Rental and Property Issues. The diocesan property department is providing advice on rental matters where the diocese is landlord and in cases where the diocese is tenant. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
- Policy on Appointments and Licences during COVID Pandemic
- Policy on Clergy Reducing Days or Stipend During Virus
DIOCESAN GOVERNANCE & COMMUNICATION
Archbishop in Council approved the formation of what is in effect an Executive to handle this crisis and make decisions nimbly. This Committee is chaired by the Archbishop, with Neil Sigamoney (Chair of Finance Committee), Dr Jenny George (Chair of People and Culture Committee), Ms Elizabeth Alexander AO (MADC Board), the Rev’d Kathryn Watt (Chair of Governance and Nominations Committee), Archdeacon Dianne Sharrock, as a clergy representative and Professor Ian Harper AO. In addition, Malcolm Tadgell (Registrar) is the Secretary and Ken Spackman (CEO MADC) and Bishop Kate Prowd attend this committee.
The bishops each have different portfolios or areas of focus during this crisis:
The Archbishop carries overall oversight of matters relating to addressing this pandemic and its effects. He chairs the Crisis Team, Archbishop in Council and meetings of Senior Leadership and Bishops, as well as the Brotherhood of St Laurence Board.
Bishop Brad oversees matters relating to theological and liturgical responses to and during this pandemic.
Bishop Kate is responsible for well-being, in conjunction with Area Deans. There will be materials provided to help with building resilience, developing coping strategies and maintaining spiritual and emotional health. She will be working with all the Area Deans to create a “toolkit” of resources.
Bishop Genieve is responsible for enabling our compassionate and collaborative response as a church together with our partner agencies. She and the Archdeacon for Parish Partnerships will be providing advice to parishes on using our resources (especially our people) for how we can best serve the vulnerable and be a good neighbour.
Bishop Paul is overseeing interpretation and communication of guidance on rules and regulations, including the COVID-19 section of the website.
COVIDSAFE REQUIREMENTS & COVIDSAFE Checklist
Checklist, COVID Safe Officer and reopening
The Vicar and churchwardens together are the ones to appoint the COVID Safe Officer. When ready, complete the checklist and send to: email@example.com. This needs to done before any reopening.
There is no pressure to reopen quickly. Every parish is different and, for most, reopening involves significant complications and compliance.
Several people have expressed anxiety about the legal liability of the parish COVID-Safe Officer. Please be assured that the diocese has public liability insurance. If somebody caught COVID19 on our premises, they would need to prove negligence on the part of the diocese or its representatives to make a claim, which our insurance covers.
Please click here to see the Diocesan COVIDSAFE Checklist
Important links detailed within the checklist are also available below for reference.
- The Metropolitan Melbourne current DHHS Restricted Activity Directions (RADs) can be found here
- The non-Metropolitan Melbourne current DHHS Restricted Activity Directions (RADs) can be found here
- DHHS stay safe directions for Metropolitan Melbourne can be found here
- DHHS stay safe directions for non-Metropolitan Melbourne can be found here
- Safe Work Australia on cleaning can be found here
- Printable Posters for display available here
- Safe Work Australia on COVID-19 at the workplace detail available here
- Safe Work Materials in other languages can be found here
- Op Shop Guidelines: here
- Poster Template on Maximum Capacity: here
- Permitted Worker and Childcare Permit Scheme Directions – here