Pastoral Note on COVID-Safe Practices

Dear friends, 

“If you want to make everyone happy, don’t be a leader. Sell ice cream.”

(Eric Geiger)

 Amongst a growing excitement and thankfulness, I’ve been hearing from others and experiencing myself as restrictions have started to lift, and with a greater sense of emerging freedom to engage in activities we have been missing over the past several months, we are also encountering a rising concern as COVID-19 ‘hotspots’ have been growing in Victoria. It has very much felt like a reminder of what we might face across our nation if we are not mindful about following the guidance we are given through the Health Department and Government.

Everyone has their own opinions and thoughts about what we should be doing, or able to do, and how we should be approaching the easing of restrictions and the increasing opportunities to gather together again. For myself, I know that as soon as I feel like I have a handle on things, there will be something else that emerges, or another factor I haven’t properly taken into consideration, and my brain goes into a further spin as I try to hold all the different nuances and needs together. It very much feels like trying to grasp hold of a wisp of smoke!

There have been so many responses to the question: what have you missed during this time of not being able to gather for worship? Some of the most common responses have ranged from being in each other’s company, to singing the songs of worship, participating in Holy Communion, and the fellowship we have with one another. And the joy and excitement of being able to once again worship with each other, in the same physical space, is deep.

I’m sure we would all like it to be as simple as ‘the restrictions have lifted and we can hold our worship services in our buildings and be together again.’ Yet it is not so simple, and neither can it be. We are still living with a global pandemic for which there is currently no vaccination, no cure, no herd immunity. We are living in a society where some people are incredibly vulnerable if they are exposed to the virus. By law, we are required to have certain things in place to protect those most vulnerable, and to reduce as much as possible the risk of infection spreading.

The Synod has worked faithfully and hard to put together the required forms that need to be completed in order for face-to-face worship to be safe and compliant with the requirements set out by the Health Department and Government. I’ve had a look at them, and they seem quite onerous! And yet they are not as onerous as the actual things that we have to do to be compliant - such as the depth and frequency of cleaning! However, they are really important, and there is a lot at risk should the forms not be completed and submitted to both the Presbytery and Synod for noting.

Those risks include fines (and potentially a jail sentence) for not complying with the current regulations for COVID-safe practices, as well as damage to the reputation of the local Congregation and the whole Uniting Church (I am sure that none of us wish to make the media headlines as the epicentre of a new outbreak of the virus!). The greater risk in my mind, however, is that of being involved in the spread of COVID-19, a risk that endangers vulnerable people within our congregations and communities. And so, I urge as strongly as I possibly can that our Church Councils take this seriously and complete the forms that are found on the Synod website, and submit them to the Synod and Presbytery before you hold face-to-face gatherings. Church Councils also need to receive and assess COVID-safe plans from any group using their property (including hirers) before allowing them to hold their gatherings — and forward the plans to Synod and Presbytery.

I know that this might all feel like it is harder than it needs to be. The level of difficulty reflects the seriousness with which we need to address this, as well as the weight of our responsibility to take care of all those in our communities. How we follow our call to love one another can be so complex at times.


“When you can’t control what’s happening,

challenge yourself to control the way you respond to what’s happening.

That’s where the power is.” 

(from a street sign)


Blessings and peace,