Can Aussies sing Christmas Carols at church this year?

Everything you need to know about Christmas services, state by state

Depending on where you live in Australia, Christmas during this COVID year might be almost normal.

Well, sort of, if the new normal is the measure. With limits on gathering numbers, singing and taking communion, 2020 will finish on the same strange note sounded throughout the year.

Check below for guidelines on what you can and can not do in your place of worship in your state, during the Christmas season.

New South Wales

· Restrictions have been eased this week in NSW.

· Outdoor church service capacity was increased from 300 to 500 people, if the audience is seated. One person is allowed per two square metres if assigned a seat, or one person per four square metres if seated in an allocated seating area, such as on a picnic rug or marked grass.

· Up to 30 singers are allowed to sing in a choir outdoors – just in time for Christmas church services and carols.

· People may participate in the singing, but must wear a mask if 12 years or older.

· Singers must also face forward and not towards each other, with 1.5 metres between each singer and five metres between singers and the congregation and conductor.

· For indoor church services, the limit of five singers remains.

Victoria

· Restrictions also eased this week for churches in Victoria.

· Churches can go ahead with up to 150 people allowed indoors and 300 people outdoors, with one person per four square metres.

· Churches can choose to hold an indoor or an outdoor service, but both cannot be held at the same time.

· There is no specific reference to singing at a religious gathering. However, for community venues – with the same cap of 150 people, and the four square metre rule – it is recommended that no more than five people sing or use wind instruments.

Queensland

· Queensland restrictions announced on October 16 remain in place.

· Outdoor worship events do not have a limit; however, only one person is allowed per two square metres.

· Indoor venues can have one person per two square metres.

· However, if you hold an indoor worship service larger than 500 people (given your building is larger than 200 square metres) – or an outdoor worship service of 1000 people – you must email public health units of the event, at least 10 days before the event.

· Singing is permitted during services, with the same requirements above, depending on venue size.

· If you choose to use your home for a church service, you must follow the up-to-date Movement and Gathering Direction.

Western Australia

· As part of Phase 4 Restrictions in Western Australia, churches are open with capacity limits determined by the two square metres per person rule (NOTE: those required to conduct the service are excluded from this capacity).

· This rule involves keeping two square metres of floor space per person, with 1.5 metres kept between people of different households at all times.

· Communion practices, involving the sharing of cups, are not advised.

Northern Territory

· Restrictions announced June 5 remain, with church services in Northern Territory allowed to operate and 1.5 metres between members of the congregation.

Tasmania

· Maximum of 250 people for an indoor church service in Tasmania, with one person per two square metres.

· Maximum of 1000 people for an outdoor church service, with one person per two square metres.

· While the Tasmanian COVID-19 safety plans do not specifically mention choirs or singing in groups, they provide guidance on ensuring proper hygiene, physical distancing and cleaning during activities in places of worship.

ACT

· As of October 9, all churches can have a maximum of 25 (excluding staff) people across services in the ACT.

· If churches want more than 25 people to attend, churches can increase capacity according to one person per four square metres (indoor) and one person per two square metres (outdoor), with an overall maximum of 200 people.

· Choirs must remain at least two metres away from the congregation and those involved in the service, and should be kept to a minimum (with two metres in between each choir member).

· Musicians also must be kept to a minimum, with two metres between each band member, and physically distanced from the congregation.

· The ACT wants the collection of plates and other shared equipment (for communion, for example) to be avoided. The use of shared books must be limited, or cleaned between each use.

South Australia

· With the “Stay at Home” direction revoked over the weekend, new directions have come into effect in South Australia.

· Church services are capped at 100 people, with density requirements of one person per four square metres.

· There have been no updates for singing. However, on October 1, a fact sheet was released on group singing which states congregation members must be spaced at least two metres apart if singing.

· Churches also should decrease the amount of people congregating and singing together, as well as decreasing the amount of time any group spends together.

· Rehearsals and performances should be held outdoors if possible and, if not, good ventilation must be ensured indoors.

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