A COVID-19 Safe Pathway

10 Jun 2020 by Rev Dr John Squires in: Formation and Discipleship Resources

Last week the NSW/ACT Synod released a ‘road map’ regarding how churches may approach returning to use of buildings. It is accessible on the Synod website at
https://nswact.uca.org.au/covid19saferoadmap/

The website has been a project over many weeks of work. It came from the regular weekly online meetings of Presbytery and Synod leaders that have been held since Wednesday 18 March, which was the week leading up to the first announcement of restrictions on gathering which were announced by the Prime Minister on 22 March. (It was also just four days after we took the decision to cancel our in-person meeting of Canberra Region Presbytery on 14 March.)

These weekly meetings have involved the Chairpersons and Presbytery Ministers of all 14 Presbyteries, along with the Synod leadership (Moderator, General Secretary, Associate Secretary, Chief Operations Officer, Executive Director of UME, UTC Principal, Head of Risk and Compliance, and other staff as required). From Canberra Region, both Co-Chairs and both Presbytery Ministers have participated each week.

The meetings have been important for three reasons:
Maintaining regular contact across the leadership of the church and enabling the development of common understandings on key issues during a time of crisis and challenge;
Enabling sharing of what has been happening across the state and territory, how congregations and ministers have been faring under the restrictions;
Viewing and approving the various Guidance Notes and Information Updates as they are prepared, and before they are published.

They have provided opportunity for the voice of representatives from the Canberra Region Presbytery to be heard; to raise questions on matters of concern amongst our Congregations; and to ensure that the ACT provisions are known and recognised in the documents which the Synod produces.

The resources collated on the COVID19 Sage Pathway website contain a number of elements. The website:
a. frames the issues in terms of the primary commitment of the church to care for people, and especially those who are vulnerable;
b. identifies the various activities that are undertaken by congregations on their church property;
c. canvasses specific practical matters relating to each of these activities;
d. provides links to the relevant government websites, with specific information relating to NSW and to the ACT on their own websites;
and 
e. also contains links to templates which are to be used to document the CLVID19 Safety Plan for each activity.

The website suggests 5 Steps to COVID-Safe your gathering:

  1. Select your activity
  2. Review related Covid-19 materials and communications
  3. Prepare and have your Church Council endorse a Covid-19 Safety Plan
  4. Send plan to covid19@nswact.uca.org.au and your Presbytery PRC
  5. Commence re-gathering when ready

I encourage your Church Council to make careful use of these resources in planning future steps in your Congregation.

John Squires
Presbytery Minister - Wellbeing