Greetings in the name of the Risen Christ! Alleluia!
I am writing in order to set in motion our thinking and preparation for life in Level 2 as a network of churches across the Diocese of Christchurch.
It is possible (noting things being said today) that we will be at Level 2 as early as Wednesday 13 May but (also noting things being said today) it is possible it will be later than that (especially if we keep flocking to Christchurch beaches).
Consequently what is posted today is “DRAFT” and these documents will only be finalised when we have heard further from the government and whether any specific new guidance means we should update the draft guidelines here.
Nevertheless it would be useful if we each familiarise ourselves with the contents of the documents, and especially if we have specific ministry roles in relation to worship, pastoral care and children’s programmes. There is quite a lot to work through.
It is vital that we understand that when our churches re-open, the effective maximum number of people able to be in a church or hall for a service or meeting will be (1) less than the specified maximum number (likely 100) AND (2) consistent with physical distancing rules.
That effective maximum in most of our buildings will be much less than 100.
So one request now, to vicars/priests-in-charge and wardens, is that calculations begin in respect of what that maximum number will be for each church and hall.
Consequentially, planning should begin now about any rearrangement of seating that needs to take place to meet physical distancing requirements.
The effective maximum will be an approximate figure because not every individual worshipper needs to be seated 1 metre apart from the next worshippers. Those who live in a bubble together will be able to sit in church together, closer than 1 metre apart.
A related request is that within each ministry unit consideration is given to any consequential changes required to the provision of worship services once the effective maximum attendance is worked out.
We will be entering challenging territory when we transition to Level 2 – if anything it looks like we will need to be kinder and more patient with each other than we have been in Levels 4 and 3.
This may be an important season in our life together to work collaboratively with the ministry units around us.
There is question about the “elderly” given that during this season many links are made between the elderly (aged over 70) and “high risk” health. Let’s see what the government says on Thursday re details but I want to set out a view which is very important to absorb … thank you!
The view is this: our vulnerability as we age is a real thing, whether or not we feel 20 years younger than our chronological age. It is irresponsible of me as Bishop to give some kind of ruling which cheerfully encourages those over 70 to ignore the increase in vulnerability which comes with the ageing process. In particular I say to each reader over the age of 70: please have regard for what your own family are saying to you. In my experience a number of adult children are more concerned about their elderly parents and the risks they may take in Level 2 than the parents themselves. If I advise anything it is simply: listen to your children! Then, let’s pay close attention to what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announces on Thursday.
Eastertide is a reminder (among other things) that God’s victory over all setbacks in life is assured. Let’s maintain faith in our victorious God even as we feel the weight and stress of the setbacks through these weeks and months of COVID-19.
PS: Clergy are asked to note a number of changes between the drafts sent out on Friday and the drafts available on the Diocesan website today. Thank you for feedback!