Coronavirus: Uniting Church (NSW/ACT) says ’don’t meet in person’, Vic Catholics close churches

The Uniting Church in Australia (UCA) in NSW and the ACT has been told not to “meet in person in any gathering”.

A meeting of leaders from Presbyteries (regional committees) and the Synod (state council) met today, and decided that local churches should be asked not to meet.

Local churches, called “congregations” in the UCA, are urged to  “(a) decide to suspend immediately all other church activities in their premises and (b) decide to suspend immediately the use of their church facilities for all community users.”

It is couched as a “very strong recommendation” because local church councils determine what happens on UCA property. Some churches, such as Springwood and Glenbrook in the Blue mountains and Wesley Mission in the Sydney CBD, had already decided not to meet this weekend.

“As Paul long ago advised, ‘whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith,'” (Gal 6:10), the UCA Covid 19 Update says. “Our commitment to the common good mandates that we proceed in this direction.

“We have a responsibility towards one another in our community of faith. By keeping distant from one another, not touching physically, not gathering in groups, we lessen the possibility that we pass on the virus to one another.

“We also have a responsibility to other people in our society. We know that the virus will keep on spreading. By not gathering, we reduce the spread of the virus in society, which flattens the curve, spreading out the number of serious cases, making it more feasible for the hospital and medical systems to cope with the inevitable rise of cases to be dealt with.”

The update is signed by Jane Fry, the UCA’s NSW/ACT General Secretary, and Simon Hansford, the Moderator (state leader).

The UCA will be circulating details of online options for their congregations. The national UCA has a page of existing online livestreams  here. 

Like other churches closing their face-to-face gatherings, the UCA in its Covid 19 Update urges local congregations to use every effort to maintain fellowship. Church members should “use this time as an opportunity for personal retreat and reflection, for enriching and renewing their life of faith, for discovering new ways of reaching out in friendship and support to others in faith, even in the midst of the challenges being experienced.”

Meanwhile,Victorian Catholic churches will cease public liturgies. “This will be a difficult moment, and every encouragement is offered as clergy and parish staff seek to explain sensitively to our people the reasons why Mass will not be offered as a public celebration,” an official announcement says.

A letter from the bishops of Victoria says they “have given this prayerful and considered reflection, and have determined the following actions:
• Immediate suspension of public liturgies, celebrations of the Mass, until further notice.
• All other gatherings are suspended. For clarification of any concerns, please contact your local
diocesan authority.

“We are very aware that this restriction will be particularly difficult for families who are planning liturgies such as funerals, weddings and baptisms. At this time, so long as appropriate precautions are able to be put in place (such as distancing between participants), it may be possible for these liturgies to proceed with a carefully limited congregation. Deferring these liturgies may also be an option that is offered to families. “


Some prayer points to help

Pray for all churches as they navigate the coronavirus crisis and decide whether to meet and how to protect the community