Don’t worry about the 70 per cent vaccination target which has rules keeping unvaccinated people out of church – focus instead on what happens at 80 per cent and beyond is the advice Sydney Anglican churches are getting.
Bishop Michael Stead is the Sydney Anglican point man for the countdown to the end of Covid lockdown. It is only a few weeks away in Sydney, and a few weeks more – but still soon – in Melbourne.
“The government is keeping its cards very close to its chest at the moment… we are in discussion with the government who are inviting us to give them proposals but at the moment they’re not signaling very much,” Stead tells Dominic Steele on a Pastors Heart podcast released early this morning. At least some ministers were briefed last night Eternity understands.
“It is clear that there will be a timeline of easing of restrictions and it is tied to certain thresholds – as we hit certain percentages. Something will definitely happen at 80 per cent, something will happen at 85 and something else at 90 or something like that.
“So, there will be staged return to normal life. What exactly happens at 80 per cent, it’s got to be better than what we have at [70 per cent] which is unvaccinated people are still under stay-at-home orders.
“The point at which normal citizens can attend [to] non-essential shopping, is when they should be able to attend church. If I can walk into commonwealth bank and do my banking and I don’t have to check my vaccination status to do that, then church ought to be on the same basis.”
Things are moving fast, and Stead suggests 80 per cent is the target – at least at present – churches should be concentrating on.
“The advice is that there is such a short gap between 70 per cent and 80 per cent that you don’t want to expend a lot of resources and energy planning your processes around what will happen at 70 per cent.,”
“Because at 70 per cent there are still some very significant barriers to doing church as we would normally do it.”
- Unvaccinated people will still be under lockdown orders at that stage.
- Children who will be unvaccinated must stay with their vaccinated parents. It will be difficult to run ministries difficult to run children’s ministries.
- Most teenagers will not be double vaccinated at the 70 per cent date.
The 70 per cent double-dosed vaccination rate is hit “around the 8th of October” according to Stead who has been watching steady 60,000 second doses a day. 80 per cent is reached October 19. “we’ll probably be within two or three days of these ABC dates” Stead predicts.
The other main lockdown state, Victoria, reaches these targets on November 198 and Decembe11 according to ABC predictions.
In NSW Monday the 11th of October – the first Monday after 70 per cent is reached – is likely to be “Freedom Monday” which means that the following Sunday the 17th is “the first realistic date we could expect to be back in Church”.
There will only be two Sundays at 70 per cent before the 80 per cent target is reached.
This applies even if the 70 per cent target is reached late, Stead explained.
In Sydney, some churches are planning to hold a “soft launch” or “dry run” on the 17th although not everyone will be there. Others will wait till the 31st – the likely 80 per cent Sunday.
The early re-starters “are making it clear this is not normal church because some will not be there.”
“At this stage, the majority [of churches] are planning to delay the start until the 31st.”
Stead points to two new measures churches will have to have regard to in their Covid safety plans: ventilation and encouraging staff including volunteers to be vaccinated.
Youth and children’s ministers will be required by the government to be double vaccinated.
Ministries involving food preparation and serving (including communion) are areas where Stead reckoned it would be prudent to have them staffed by double-vaccinated people.
The Sydney Anglicans are actively discussing the place of the unvaccinated in Church.
“There may be some distinctions. The government may say ‘these people may come back to church, but you’ll need a separate area to keep the unvaccinated away from the vulnerable,’ for example.”
Stead says he wants to give the government some slack because they have a hard job, juggling the new rules against an expected number of deaths. The case numbers each day will influence what is permitted at 80 per cent. If the numbers start going up again, it increases the likelihood that it will be say 85 per cent before the rules around unvaccinated people in church are relaxed.
“Read Romans 14 twice” is Stead’s advice to Christians. Substitute “get vaccinated ” for “meat” one time and “don’t get vaccinated” the other time. He gives the examples of an unvaccinated person stepping back from some ministry to respect the fears of the others and vaccinated people to avoid using disrespectful language about the unvaccinated.
We’ll all be back in church at whatever percentage the government sets says Stead.