The latest stage in the South Australian Government’s Roadmap for Easing COVID-19 Restrictions, Step 3, comes into effect Monday 29 June. This represents a welcome move towards more normal worship and other church activities but there are still restrictions in place. You can find details on the government website here.
We have received many questions of how these new rules will specifically impact churches and have prepared the following responses to help parishes understand how the new rules affect them this Sunday and beyond.
Do we have to update our Covid-19 plan to reflect the change in rules?
Good news! If your parish has previously submitted a Covid-19 plan to the government you do not have to do anything at all. The health authorities will email you with an automatically updated plan reflecting the changes.
If you haven’t submitted a Covid-19 plan you must do so before you hold services or other activities. You can find details of how to go about it here.
How many people are allowed to attend a church service?
From 29 June, there are no capacity limits on churches or other venues. You need to allow two square metres of space for every person, however, although members of the same household may sit together within that two square metres. At all times you should try to keep 1.5 metres away from other people.
Do we have to keep records of individuals in the congregation?
Yes. Contact tracing records need to be kept for every member of the congregation including visitors. You can access a Word document template for the Contact Tracing Record Attendance as required by law here.
Can we use this as an opportunity to expand the parish database for on-going outreach?
It’s complicated. You could, but it would require making extra declarations under the Privacy Act. Government regulations state that information collected for the purpose of tracing potential Covid-19 cases must be destroyed within six months.
Are there different rules for weddings and funerals?
From 29 June, there are no limits on numbers allowed at weddings, funerals and other ceremonies but you will need to allow two square metres of space for every person. If the ceremony involves food or drinks, no shared utensils can be used and social distancing must be observed.
How about baptisms?
Baptisms are allowed – subject to social distancing rules, of course.
How do we handle Communion?
Communion in one kind is permitted. There is no indication when the regulations concerning the common cup at communion will change but we will keep an eye out for new regulations.
Can we have morning tea after church?
Yes, as long as people don’t share utensils.
Our friends in Sydney and Melbourne are forbidden from singing. Are we allowed to sing hymns?
Yes! The South Australian Government says it is fine to make a joyful noise unto the Lord just so long as you keep your social distance.
Can we share bibles, hymn and prayer books?
It’s complicated. Handling a book by one person is fine but you can’t pass them from one to another, so they can’t be handed out at the door. Once used, they mustn’t be touched by anyone else for a week. That means if there are two services on a Sunday, the same books as used in the first service cannot be used in subsequent ones.
What about the collection? Can we handle money?
Anyone handling or counting collections should wear gloves and keep their distance.
Can children return to Sunday School and play groups?
Yes! From Monday 29 June play groups for children and Sunday School are allowed.
What about programmes apart from Sunday services? Can we hold gatherings during the week?
Yes. They are subject to the same spacing rules as well as registering attendees for tracing purposes. That means any number of people can attend as long as each person has two square metres.
Our church hires out the hall for an AA meeting. Are we responsible for recording contact information for tracing purposes?
No. If the parish hires out a hall, the organisers of the meeting who rent the space will be responsible. However, if it is a church-run activity, say a youth group, then you are responsible for taking names and contact details.
How about cleaning after services and other gatherings? What do we need to do?
You should follow the South Australian government guidelines for disinfecting and cleaning, which you can download here and the Federal governments Environmental cleaning and disinfection principles for COVID-19 here.
Who covers the cost of cleaning rooms after use?
If the parish has organised the event, it will be the responsibility of the parish to meet any cleaning costs. However, if a space is rented to another group, you might consider charging them any related cleaning costs.