The 22 October announcements have been helpful, in that at least we know what the new rules are and how they affect churches. For churches, the new rules contain both some welcome easing of restrictions and also some ongoing challenges for churches of every size. One good thing is that churches are free to choose for any particular gathering whether they require vaccination certificates or not, and then to operate that gathering with the required numerical limits and safety measures.
Below, we set out our take on the new rules as they apply to churches, and also suggest some options for how churches may gather. These are far from easy times (we remain in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, and many Christians continue to feel a deep unease with restrictions on church gatherings), but we are confident that with God’s guidance we can find our way through.
The new COVID-19 protection framework:
our summary of what it means for churches
SOME REASONABLE AND PERMISSIBLE OPTIONS…
All-in church services: Some churches may decide to hold church services for everyone, with no vaccination certificate required but with limits on numbers, and to manage the risks for everyone with all appropriate safety measures in place. Small churches would be able to hold just one service, while larger churches would require two or more services.
Two different types of church services: Some churches may decide that they will hold two different types of services…
- Church service(s) which are only for those who have vaccination certificates, and which can have greater numbers attending.
- Church service(s) which are open to everyone, regardless of vaccination status, and which have smaller numbers allowed.
Those church services which require vaccination certificates and those which don’t would need to be clearly designated, so everyone knew what they were attending, and on what basis. We must also do all we can to avoid any sense of division.
Providing access to church in other ways: Some churches may decide that they will care for and make provision for those who are unvaccinated in other ways, such as through small groups, zoom gatherings, pastoral visits, and through continuing access to church services through livestreaming, Zoom, and so on.
Waiting: Some churches may feel reluctant to gather until everyone can gather together. This is very understandable, but churches will need to take into account that the current rules are likely to remain in place for quite a long time.
Finally, here are some reflections and questions by Tim Palmer as a follow-up to his article last week.