Willing to wait: Most Sydney churches re-opening at 80 per cent fully vaxxed

A riddle: why are churches like pubs? Because some are “early openers”.

In a “no fuss” approach to re-opening in the lockdown state of NSW, an overwhelming majority of churches are waiting for the rapidly approaching target of 80 per cent of 16 years and older fully vaccinated to be reached. That could be this Sunday,  October 17. If so, unvaxxed and vaxxed would be able to come to church together from the following Monday, with October 24 as the first Sunday.

Only a minority of churches are opening before that – the “early openers” – but only by one week.

A straw poll, conducted by Sydney pastor Dominic Steele, found that most churches will wait. You might call it a particular “vaccine hesitancy” waiting to all can come, or simply taking care to re-open well in a number of ways.

Steele’s Straw poll of Sydney churches found they will re-open on:

  • Sunday, October 17 – 26 churches
  • Sunday, October 31 – 88 churches
  • Sunday, November  7 – 28 churches
  • Sunday, December 5 – 8 churches
  • Later or not fixed – 4 churches

A clear majority of these churches plan to re-open when all can attend.

As it turns out, the target of 80 per cent of 16 years and above fully vaxxed will be met on October 17th, with Monday, October 18 being the first day both vaxxed and unvaxxed will be able to meet together in church.

Vaccination is happening faster than many churches would have planned. So fast that those starting “early” – before the unvaxxed can attend – are only ahead by one day.

This means that any angst or concern of “segregation” of un vaxxed from vaxxed by the minority of “early opener” churches is fleeting at best. In NSW at least, predictions of strife are being superseded as churches move calmly ahead.

Steele’s Village Church in Annandale in inner Sydney is one of the early openers. They describe their timing in this manner: “We start a physical ‘soft launch service’ for vaccinated people only on Sunday 17 October. Our full church gathers for the Lord’s Supper on Sunday 31 October.” They will continue their livestream and make it clear that they reserve holding communion until it is certain vaxxed and unvaxxed can come.

Meanwhile. Victoria is charging towards its 70 per cent target, which will mean a few weeks before vaxxed and unvaxxed will be allowed in small church gatherings of 20, with larger only vaxxed meetings allowed.  And Queensland has announced that churches will not be required to separate the groups at all.

Churches counter the rising anxiety in the community, Melbourne’s Anglican Archbishop, Philip Freier, told his Synod (church parliament) last night.

Australia has become a society “increasingly seized by anxiety, frustration and growing anger,” he said.

“People have experienced hardship, loss of freedom, livelihood and certainty,” Dr Freier told the opening night of Melbourne’s General Synod – the first since 2019 and the first digital synod.

Parish life has been significantly disrupted, but the churches have found other ways to celebrate communion with God and each other.

“I admire the efforts of our clergy to adapt to all that we have faced and to continue nurturing congregational life through online worship and other means,” he said. “This recent time has opened up opportunities for learning and the reception of the ancient truths of the Church.”

Dr Freier said Australians should be thankful that they had survived the impact of coronavirus without high loss of lie and without catastrophic economic collapse.

“We are in an uncharted place but it is reasonable to expect some of the impacts of the last 18 months will continue well after the emergency phase of the pandemic. The work of the Gospel of Christ to heal and restore will be freshly needed,” he said.