Churches are caught in a dilemma, how can they welcome the vaxxed and un-vaxxed meeting together when the NSW government’s new “roadmap” for when the community reaches 70 per cent double dosed with Covid vaccines. That could be mid to late October.
Because the lockdown state’s plan is for the fully vaccinated and those with medical exemptions only to gain extra freedom. That will mean “Churches and places of worship to open subject to one person per 4sqm rule, with no singing.”
This means that over 16’s who are unvaccinated with no medical exemptions are excluded from the NSW Government’s plan for extra freedoms for the vaccinated.
This dilemma is exercising pastor’s minds from Pentecostal to Presbyterian. “Jesus is Lord of all, and his gospel is a gospel for all,” is how Kaniska Raffel the Anglican Archbishop of Sydney expressed it. “A ‘No Entry’ sign at the door of the church is wholly inconsistent with the gospel preached inside. Neither race, gender, ethnicity, age, nor economic or educational status – or vaccination status – are to operate as divisions within the Christian community or barriers to the fellowship we share because of Jesus.”
There are four groups who many ministers long to have in the same room
- The vaxxed,
- Those with medical exemptions – who may be particularly vulnerable to infection
- Those too young to vax, the under 12s
- Those who are anti-vax or vax-hesitant
And here’s a simple solution.
Let’s copy Woolworths who are rolling out rapid antigen tests in their warehouses. Construction workers in LGAs of concern are using them so they can work in other areas. Or the vaccine mandate that President Biden has announced, for Federal workers that place the recently tested on the same basis as the vaxxed.
Rapid antigen testing involves a nasal swab (using a small cotton bud) that is placed into a chemical solution. The result displays within 15 to 20 minutes.
Imagine this, a group of vaccine-hesitant people come to church early and get a rapid antigen test, and are ready by the time the vaxxed and children arrive. If they fail they quietly go home.
Or perhaps they get tested the day before at the local Pharmacy.
We’ll need to obey one strict rule. “The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) conditions of supply require rapid antigen tests to be used under the supervision of a health practitioner who has been trained in the correct use of the device and interpretation of results. Suitably trained staff can perform the test if they are supervised by a health practitioner, either in person or via video.” A “health practitioner” includes professionals such as pharmacists and some nurses, as well as doctors.
We’ll need to spend some money on the un-vaxxed group, the tests are $10 each. Medicare won’t cover them.
We’ll need to negotiate, the rapid antigen tests for churches are not in the current NSW Roadmap.
But they could be – or they could become part of the rules for 80 per cent double dosed, possibly coming into effect a few weeks after the rules for 70 per cent.
Singapore is an interesting example of how things might work. A church meeting under 50 adults no longer requires passports, but with passports, 1,000 can gather – with those with medical exemptions and recent tests counted as vaccinated.
In Singapore “recent” is within 24 hours before the end of the event. If we were in Singapore our pastors would not be having to think about how to bring the vaxxed and unvaxxed together.
To test how those who have a special concern for inviting the unvaxxed into church think about this proposal Eternity ran this idea past Pastor Timothy Grant one of the authors of the Ezekiel Declaration. “Yes, when issues of conscience come into play, the right thing to do is to provide alternatives,” Grant responded. “Sitting reading your Bible for 15 minutes while you wait for an antigen test result to return is a reasonable solution.” Good point.
It may be that the NSW Government listens to church leaders and allows churches to welcome all. Advocating for rapid antigen tests to allow all to gather at church seems to be at least a good fall-back and actually a safer outcome, especially for those unable to be vaccinated such as cancer patients so those living with specific disabilities.