Starting on the 7th of February 2021 we are again allowed to have in-person church attendance.
If you are planning on attending in person you must fill out the Health Screening Questionnaire each time you are attending on the Sunday morning before the service.
Please also read the full explanation of the rules and approach below.
What Are the Current Rules?
It is very important that our approach be in keeping with the laws of the country. These laws have changed over time but the current ruling document is Government Gazette No. 43762. These were gazetted on the 1st of October 2020. Please take the time to read these rules in their entirety. If you are aware of these rules being amended, please let me know.
There are requirements for what the religious organisations and leaders need to do and requirements for what people attending services need to do. Here is our plan for how to meet all of the requirements.
Preparation of the Place of Worship
- We will ensure that all surfaces and equipment in the church and hall foyer and bathrooms are cleaned before and after worship services. The church is not being used by the school at the moment so weekly church services are the only current use of the space.
- The hall toilets will be open and supplied with soap.
- The kitchen, Godly Play Room, nursery area, the lending library and bookstore, and the main area of the hall will be off-limits.
- There will be a foot-operated hand sanitising station to be used upon entering and exiting the church.
- There are red circles stuck about 2 metres apart on the pews and chairs in the church to indicate the appropriate social distance to be kept between people from different households. If you live in the same house as your family members then you can sit close to those people as long as there is appropriate distance between your group and the surrounding groups. Every other pew is skipped. There are currently 47 dots on the pews and chairs in the church so, with the pastor not needing a chair and a few people from the same household sitting together, we can fit all 50 people in the space while maintaining appropriate social distance.
- All of the Bibles, Liturgies, and welcome pamphlets have been removed from the pews.
- We’ve also had to remove the cushions from the church. So, if you need a cushion to sit comfortably in church, please bring one from home and then take it home again with you when you go.
- We will open as many windows as we can and may even turn on the fans to ensure a good flow of air in the church. (See this article about the importance of good movement of air from outside.) So please dress warmly when you come to church.
- The regulations say, “Social activities before and after the religious activity is not allowed” so we will not set up chairs for people to sit on before or after the service.
- In the courtyard there will also be a table set up to have people fill out the required screening questionnaire before entering the church. You won’t be able to enter the church without filling out the questionnaire each time.
Not More Than 50% of Occupation Capacity
We will obey this regulation. It might take the most work to figure out how best to obey this regulation. We may need to work out ways to divide up the congregation and have people attend in person on alternate Sundays. We may need to start offering multiple services on a Sunday. For now we will have one service.
It’s a little hard to know how many people we can safely fit into our building, while still observing 1.5 metres between family groups. For now we will still be thinking of the attendance limit as being about 50 people but this gives us some leeway in that regard.
The regulations state that “Any person over the age of 60 and persons with co-morbidities are encouraged to continue worshiping at home”. They do not, however, prohibit such persons from attending worship services and so we will advise people who fit into those age or health categories to worship from home but we will not prohibit them from attending, if they and/or their families decide that the risk is worth it.
We used to not allow children younger than Grade 3 but we are now allowing people of all ages to attend church in person. However, we will not be providing any children’s programs or childcare. Children will be the responsibility of their parents for the entire time they are at church and they will not be allowed to come forward for the Children’s Talk. We recommend that people with young children sit in the pews closest to the front. Also, the nursery area and the main area of the hall will still be off-limits.
So far we have not come near having 50 persons attending in person. But, we will be keeping careful track and will turn people away if we have to in order to make sure that appropriate social distancing can be maintained.
What It Will Be Like to Attend a Service
The other requirements are about what people attending the service need to do so I thought it best to communicate those in the way they would come up, if you were to attend a service.
Fill Out a Screening Survey Before Attending
As you would have seen in the regulations, we are required to keep a register of people who attend each service. It will need to be filled out on a computer or a phone. If you’d like to, you can use the following link to take a look at the survey: COVID-19 Worship Service Screening Questionnaire – New Church Westville. The first time you fill it out you will have to supply us with your contact information and the contact information of the people in your household. After that you will only have to answer the COVID-19 related questions.
Everyone who attends a service will need to check in with the person at the table outside the church to verify that they have successfully filled out the form before they will be allowed to enter the church. People who don’t fill it out before coming will have to fill it out when they arrive. The person at the table can help people fill it out by asking the questions and filling the information in for them on a laptop. If we have a lot of people needing help with this we will ask other tech-savvy people to help others fill out the form on their phones.
Print the Sermon or Readings Before Coming
We will not be able to provide printed sermons or readings for people. We will still be providing those online before the service so that you can print them at home and bring them with you.
Because of the screening and other things that we need to do before the service starts, we recommend that you get to church from about 9:10am.
Wear a Mask and Use Hand Sanitiser
You will not be allowed to enter the church unless you are wearing a face mask and you must wear a mask the entire time you are on the church and school campus. Face shields are not acceptable; you must wear a face mask that covers your nose and mouth. You will also be required to use the foot-operated hand sanitiser as you enter the church. There will be an usher at the door of the church to ensure that people are wearing masks and use hand sanitiser. There will be another usher in the church to help people find suitable places to sit and to ensure that there is 1.5 metres between family groups.
No Temperature Check
We are not going to take your temperature at the door. The board discussed this. A couple of different sources indicate that this is not an effective screening method and it requires close contact between each attendee and whoever is taking the temperatures. If you are feeling at all feverish or off, please err on the side of caution and just stay home rather than risk infecting people.
Don’t Touch the Offertory Bowl
We will have an offertory bowl but it will be set up so that you don’t have to touch it or anything in it. We will not be able to dedicate the offertory during the service because the minister will not be wearing a mask when leading the service and the usher would have to get too close to him to hand off the bowl. We will follow the regulations when it comes to counting the offertory money.
The Church Will Be Set Up for Live-streaming
Because there will still be lots of people who will only be attending church online we will be prioritising their needs more than before. Rather than having the tripod for the camera in the back of the church, there will be 2 tripods right up front and they may obstruct your view somewhat.
Singing is prohibited (because it “can generate droplets in quantities that are similar to coughing” – source) and so we will continue to have the majority of the music before the service starts. This is another reason to get there early. The regulations do allow for solo performances. We may look into doing that in the future.
No Coming Forward for the Children’s Talk
The minister won’t be able to sit with the children in the front because, if he is not wearing a mask, he must stay 2,5 metres away from the nearest person.
No Socialising After the Service
The regulations say, “Social activities before and after the religious activity is not allowed.” Therefore we will be discouraging people from socialising after the service. We can’t offer any tea or eats. We will not be providing any chairs for people to sit on. You will still be required to wear your face mask and maintain social distance on your way to your cars. I know it’s hard to communicate through a mask and it is terrible to not be able to hug and shake hands.
My experience is that people can pretty easily talk each other out of wearing masks and observing appropriate social distance. As soon as one person pulls down their mask to talk, then everyone starts to do it. Please don’t do that and don’t take offense if someone tells you to put your mask back on properly. Treat this as though you are at the shops, not as though you are at home. As religious leaders we are responsible for ensuring that people wear face masks covering nose and mouth, don’t make physical contact, and maintain appropriate social distance. Please don’t make our jobs harder.
Thanks again for reading all the way to here and for being someone who cares about New Church Westville.