Government requirements have not substantially changed regarding church services, except that the limit for gatherings is now 100 people, rather than 50. However, there have been several changes made to the way the government guidelines are to be implemented in the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch. This is in part due to a letter from the Archbishop that made clear that there is no mandatory physical distancing requirement. Instead, we are encouraged to observe “appropriate distancing”. Therefore, pews will no longer be allocated to parishioners. You can sit where you like, but you are encouraged to not sit closely together. I would ask you to leave one pew empty between each group or bubble. The aisle probably gives sufficient distancing between adjacent pews.
In part this uncertainty may be explained by the differences between what’s said in government press conferences, in government detailed guidance, and in the relevant regulations. In addition, there is expert advice and a very human delight in making rules. Overall, people making rules are motivated by doing the right thing and being seen to do it. The Church clearly does not want to be the avenue for further COVID-19 infections; it wants people to come to church with the knowledge that risks are managed; and it wants to protect its reputation, both by not being seen as facilitating an outbreak and by being seen as having sufficient measures in place at these times. I do not doubt that this will mean further changes in future. We will need to adjust to them.
Some things haven’t changed for church services while we’re in Level 2:
– face masks to be worn at all times (unless exempted)
– a record will be taken of everyone present at services (parishioners marked on roll)
– readers not to share microphones
– no sharing of the peace
– offering bags will not be passed around
We will not have congregational singing, except for Evensong. Those comfortable with singing can come to Evensong on 3 October (masks to be worn). At the 10am service we will have one (masked) singer singing the words of the shortened hymns.
If we want to, we could start morning tea again. There won’t be morning tea this Sunday, but please let me know what you think and we can look at having morning tea again.
We can have Communion, but only the bread will be distributed. Appropriate distancing would be required. Again, there will not be Communion this Sunday, but please let me know how you feel about celebrating Communion.
In short, more discretion is given to individual parishes to determine measures. That’s why you will see things being done differently in different churches.