Coronavirus Updates

For further updates, see the Churches of Christ Vic/Tas Facebook page as well as the Generations Churches of Christ Vic/Tas Facebook page for Kids, Youth and Young Adults Leaders.

Updates


KEY UPDATES

The Federal Government has released Stage 3 restrictions and is now strongly advising against indoor or outdoor gatherings of more than 2 people except in certain circumstances. 

Each State and Territory will now pass legislation or make directives so that the recommendations/advice will become enforceable. Victoria has already done this, and so the Stage 3 restrictions will come into effect from 11:59pm Monday 30 March 2020. They will be in place for 4 weeks and reviewed as required.  Tasmania has also indicated that the new restrictions will come into effect from 11:59pm Monday 30 March 2020.  Please view the following video from Tasmanian Premier Peter Gutwein and Health Minister Sarah Courtney. Check out https://coronavirus.tas.gov.au/ for Tassie updates.

In summary: 

  • Public gatherings, excluding household members, have been reduced to a maximum of two people. Check State and Territory websites for further enforcement information.
  • Everyone should stay home unless you are: shopping for essentials, receiving medical care, exercising or travelling to work or education.
  • People aged over 70, aged over 60 with pre-existing conditions, or Indigenous people aged over 50 should stay home wherever possible for their own protection.
  • A safety net package of $1.1 billion has been announced by the Prime Minister to expand mental health and telehealth services, increase domestic violence services and provide more emergency food relief. Read more.
  • Stay informed. Download the official government “Coronavirus Australia” app in the Apple App Store or Google Play, or join our WhatsApp channel on iOS or Android.
  • All travellers returning home from overseas will be quarantined in a hotel or designated facility for 14 days. Read more.
  • Pubs, licensed clubs and hotels (excluding accommodation), gyms, skateparks, indoor sporting venues, cinemas, beauty salons, play centres and outside playgrounds, places of worship and other public places must be closed. There are restrictions on attendance at weddings, funerals and outdoor fitness classes. Supermarkets and pharmacies remain open. Please check your State and Territory websites for full details.

Source: https://www.australia.gov.au/#state-government and https://www.vic.gov.au/coronavirusresponse

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR AFFILIATES - COMMON Q&A

Q: Can our staff still operate from the church office?
A: Yes, it is allowable as it involves people going to work. It is time to transition staff to be able to work from home where possible. Workers attending the office must adhere to the 4 square metre rule, and social distancing must be observed.  The church is not “open” to the public so to speak, but Ministers and staff can still go to work.

Q: Can we still meet to pray or do bible study in groups if we adhere to the 4m/1.5m rules?
A: No, do not congregate in groups of more than 2 people either indoors or outdoors.  People should stay at home, unless shopping for essentials, travelling to and from work (if you cannot work from home), going to school and exercising. Churches should encourage families to do bible studies together, and for people to pray over the phone if they do not live in the same household.  For those that are living on their own, this may see an increase in social isolation.  Please make extra efforts to connect with people in this situation but do so in a way that does not contravene health guidelines or restrictions.   

Q: Can we still have a team attend the church to run the online service?
A: Yes, but there are now stricter conditions on this activity due to the two person rule. Advice received from the Department of Health & Human Services this afternoon (30/3/2020) has clarified that whilst there have been restrictions placed on religious gatherings (places of worship), the two person rule does not apply to workplaces. As the church space is both a workplace and a gathering space, the application of the new restrictions can be a bit confusing for some churches.  The purpose of the restrictions is to limit person to person contact that isn’t essential – and this is for the greater safety of all of us as we try to curb the health crisis. Therefore, while we can continue to produce and livestream church worship services, the team running the service must include only the people who are doing this as part of their employment duties.  Those involved must also still adhere to the 4 square metre rule, and social distancing and strict hygiene measures must be observed.  Volunteers are not considered ‘essential’ in this situation according to the current restrictions.

If your production team cannot operate without volunteers, then you must also adhere to the 2 person rule.  CCVT strongly recommends that any volunteers whose skills are required on-site should set up what they need to (or pre-record) prior to employees attending to run the service. It may be advantageous to train an employee to be able to do the task (e.g. manage sound desk) as well. 

Q: Can the Minister still meet one-on-one with people?
A: Yes, if this is one of their employment duties and they are absolutely unable to communicate with someone in an alternative way (e.g. phone).  Social distancing must be observed. 

Q: Can we continue running our food bank or pantry?
A: Yes, community and recreation centres may remain open for the purpose of hosting essential voluntary or public services, such as food banks or homeless services.  Many have moved to takeaway meals only. Keep staff to a minimum and restrict numbers who are entering the building. Make sure people are not also gathering together to socialise before or afterwards. All those involved must adhere to the 4 square metre rule, and social distancing must be observed.

WEDDINGS AND FUNERALS

Weddings are still capped at five people, and funerals at 10 people.  The two person rule does not apply to these events.

WHAT ARE OTHER AFFILIATES DOING?

Hope is rising! It's great to hear of churches responding the current crisis with the provision of meals to the community, significant financial giving, new connections with the local community, and different people stepping up to help. Great to see the Church being the Church, stepping up in faith and seeing prayer answered. Let's keep shining the light of Jesus amidst the darkness.

Mini Bible Study
The Pyramid Hill Church of Christ members have created a mini Bible Study to assist the church while they are unable to attend church.  The current plan is to create a weekly study. If you are interested in receiving a copy each week that you can circulate to as many people as you like (no copyright claimed) please email Peter Hipwell at peteglenn@bigpond.com. Watch their video at https://www.dropbox.com/s/khuhw0yljjfza7y/20080101031219.mpg?dl=0.

Peter Hipwell (Pyramid Hill Church of Christ)

Church on the Phone
Everyone is very excited at Oakleigh because we are having 'Church on the Phone' while we are in lockdown. We are doing this because many of our people are not tech savvy but hopefully can manage to join our phone conference platform at 10am every Sunday. I am encouraging our people to 'Meet Together to Meet with God' through this community connection having various ones involved with Bible Reading, Prayer and Communion. There will also be a mini message and time for sharing and specific individual prayer. Yesterday was our first meeting and almost everyone joined the call, and all agreed that it was great to hear each other’s voices and know that we were all there for each other. It interesting to note that 3 new people joined us because we had the Conference Call phone numbers listed on our web page!

I have to say that our music was a bit of a disaster, but we will work on that before next week! We are also meeting together via the conferencing platform on a Wednesday where we will share together, pray, and listen to 'A Message of Hope'. I am also encouraging 'Everyone to ring one Everyday' so that we ensure connectivity and notification of any needs.  

Sue Brownless (Oakleigh Church of Christ)

Care packs for people doing church at home
At Boronia we provided packs for the isolated/non-tech savvy in our community including communion supplies, morning tea, coffee stick, letter from the Minister, and a sermon/communion talk and worship songs on DVD or USB.  And a roll of loo paper! 😊

Bekkii Scott (Boronia Community Church of Christ)

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Generous Donations to Community Meals Programs

Here was a good news story run by the Herald Sun on Foothills Community Care. If you have a $1 to spare you can subscribe for 28 days to view the complete article. On 25 March 2020, we found out that Foothills Community Care was in much need of pasta, sauces, tins of tuna, flour, disposable cutlery, napkins etc. CCVT worked with a private donor to source the items and deliver them to the program. If you are looking for food wholesalers who may be able to support your meals program or food pantry, check out some of these generous organisations and businesses.

What great stories do you have to share that might encourage others?  Let us know at safeplaces@churchesofchrist.org.au.

REMINDER - UPDATE YOUR WEBSITE WITH NEW ONLINE SERVICE INFO

So many churches have been able to take their Sunday services online – a fantastic opportunity to worship together as well as be a witness to the potentially limitless online community.  Please make sure you have updated the front page of your website so that people can easily understand where and how to view your service.  Let’s make it as easy as possible for people to worship with us.

RESOURCES

The Alban Institute has just released some resources that may be helpful to churches. It has a North American twist, but some good material none the less.  See the three attached documents:

RESOURCES FOR WORKING FROM HOME

Working from Home starter Guide
A brief guide for team members who are setting up to work from home – please edit/adjust as needed for your context

Working from Home – Health and Safety Checklist
OH&S checklist template for setting up to work from home – please edit/adjust as needed for your context

Links to helpful articles:
https://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/productivity-tips-working-from-home
www.welivesecurity.com/2020/03/16/covid19-forced-workplace-exodus/
www.bbc.com/worklife/article/20200312-coronavirus-covid-19-update-work-from-home-in-a-pandemic

STAY UP TO DATE

COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving situation, and all Affiliates are reminded to stay on top of the latest information. Learn more by referring to trusted sources, such as:

UPDATES FROM CCVT

Along with the email updates, the CCVT website has a new Coronavirus page at www.churchesofchrist.org.au/coronavirus. We will be transitioning all the resources and updates to this page so thanks for your patience as we set this up. Please bookmark to your browser. 

KEY UPDATES:

Tighter restrictions on non-essential activities were expanded from midnight 25 March 2020. Religious gatherings and places of worship are considered non-essential. Click here for more information on limits on public gatherings.

Essential services include health services, supermarkets, banks, pharmacies, petrol stations and convenience stores. Freight, logistics and home delivery are also considered essential and will remain open.

WEDDINGS AND FUNERALS:

Weddings can now only be conducted with no more than five people, including the couple, the celebrant and the witnesses.

The 4 square metre rule and social distancing must be observed. 

If you require marriage celebrant’s advice from CCVT, please contact staff Philip Kua on 0412 003 888 or pkua@churchesofchrist.org.au

Funerals must be limited to no more than 10 people. The 4 square metre rule and social distancing must be observed.

Practical information on the conducting of funerals is still being developed. Ministers and families should consult with the relevant funeral home for advice specific to their circumstances.

Bethel Funerals have provided some useful information on their site www.bethelfunerals.com.au/covid-19.

COMMON Q&A:

Q: Is it ok for trades to work inside our building?
A: Yes. Tradies and anyone meeting them onsite to let them in must adhere to the 4 square metre rule, and social distancing must be observed.

Q: Can our staff still operate from the church office?
A: Yes, but it is time to transition staff to be able to work from home. Workers attending the office must adhere to the 4 square metre rule, and social distancing must be observed.  The church is not “open” to the public so to speak, but Ministers and staff can still go to work.

Q: Can we still meet to pray or do bible study in small groups if we adhere to the 4m/1.5m rules?
A: No.  People should stay at home, unless shopping for essentials, travelling to and from work (if you cannot work from home), going to school and exercising. Keep visitors to your home at a minimum. Do not congregate in groups in outdoor spaces.

https://www.pm.gov.au/media/update-coronavirus-measures-24-March-2020

https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert/how-to-protect-yourself-and-others-from-coronavirus-covid-19/limits-on-public-gatherings-for-coronavirus-covid-19#nonessential-gatherings

Q: Can we still have a small team attend the church to run the online service?
A: Yes, live streaming of a performance by a small group could be permissible but it must include only the people essential to the production of the service. All equipment must be sanitised before and after use. Those involved must adhere to the 4 square metre rule, and social distancing must be observed.

Q: Can we continue running our food bank or pantry?
A: Yes, community and recreation centres may remain open for the purpose of hosting essential voluntary or public services, such as food banks or homeless services.  Many have moved to takeaway meals only. Keep staff to a minimum and restrict numbers who are entering the building. Make sure people are not also gathering together to socialise before or afterwards. All those involved must adhere to the 4 square metre rule, and social distancing must be observed.

WHAT ARE SMALLER OR LESS RESOURCED CHURCHES DOING?

“We have set up a buddy system amongst all the members, so we can concentrate our efforts on one family each with prayer, texts, grocery shopping, etc.  It does not involve visits or physical contact.  There are some very vulnerable people in churches, like singles or immigrants who are isolating, so we are hoping this helps them especially.”
The Olive Branch Church (Ararat)

“City Heart Church of Christ in Stawell does not have the capacity to livestream a service, so we have formed a partnership with Horsham Church of Christ.   Stawell members will be livestreaming Horsham’s services while Terry and the leadership team provide and mobilises pastoral care of members and to care for our city. This solves a problem for us, and we are so grateful that Horsham are looking after our pastoral needs in this way. The building is closed but the church is wide open!”
City Heart Church (Stawell)

“We are a small church made up of three sperate congregation with lots of people who don’t have capacity to utilise online resources. So, we are keeping in touch by email, phone and post.  We have asked people to call a list of specific people on a weekly basis – this way everyone is in the loop, being contacted, and staying in touch, without people feeling left out or excluded because of any lack of access to technology”.
Friends of Dismas (Melbourne, Geelong and Box Hill)

“The majority of our people are not on social media with many not having a computer. Just before the start of Covid-19 we started using the Discovery Bible Series (DBS) in our small groups, so we have now extended that to the whole church. (Attached) is what we have given everyone as a weekly resource. On Sundays Tim follows up with a text messages and will call those who don’t have mobile phones”.
Ballarat Central Church of Christ (Ballarat)

If you would like to share your ideas with other Affiliates, please email the details to safeplaces@churchesofchrist.org.au as we would love to continue sharing resources.  (Please re-send ideas if you did not receive a reply previously).

CCVT STAFF PRAYER:

The CCVT Staff would meet regularly to pray together at the office, and this is now happening online.  This week we prayed for one another, our staff, our Churches, for healing and God’s sovereignty in a time of need.  We prayed for our nation’s leaders, as well as our Churches leaders – and we will continue to pray these prayers.

As we prayed it was sensed that God was speaking some important prophetic words over us and our movement….here is some of what was prayed and spoken.

  • We believe that our Churches are going to become stronger than they ever have before.
  • This is a time of opportunity, that different giftings will arise.
  • God is calling us back; it is a time of sifting.

CCVT staff will be praying every Wednesday at 8am – if you have specific prayer points for your Church or Agency that you would like us to include, please email Greg Illingworth at gillingworth@churchesofchrist.org.au.

RESOURCES 

Resources continue to be developed by various organisations in response to COVID-19. Here are just a few that you may find helpful for yourself or people within your faith community and beyond.

Frequently Asked Questions about COVID-19 - Updated
This information sheet answers common questions about COVID-19 — including what it is, how it spreads, if you should get tested, who is most at risk and if you should attend public gatherings.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Multilingual Resource Library:
A multilingual resource library focused on COVID-19 has been created providing information in 18 languages from health authorities at Federal, State and Global levels. This hub page is being updated as new information is provided and translated.

Translated coronavirus (COVID-19) resources:
A list of resources about COVID-19 in Arabic, Vietnamese, Simplified and Traditional Chinese, Farsi, Italian and Korean. Includes fact sheets, guidelines and other publications.

Mental Health and Wellbeing:
The outbreak of the coronavirus COVID-19 has impacted people in varying ways on an international scale. It is understandable that during times like this, people may be feeling afraid, worried, anxious and overwhelmed by the constantly changing alerts and media coverage regarding the spread of the virus.

While it is important to stay informed, Lifeline have provided some mental health and wellbeing tips and strategies to continue looking after ourselves and each other during these difficult times.

Healthy Parenting:
To help parents interact constructively with their children during this time of confinement, these six one-page tips for parents cover planning one-on-one time, staying positive, creating a daily routine, avoiding bad behaviour, managing stress, and talking about COVID-19. Use them to your and your kids’ advantage and have fun in doing so. 

Normal life has been disrupted: a guide for managing disruption to occupational participation:
Written by Occupational Therapist Lorrae Mynard, this ebook guide presents occupational concepts of productivity, leisure, self-care, environment, routine and roles in plain language and presents suggestions and examples of how to adapt and manage the disruption to occupational participation. It was designed for use by the general public.

ACNC/ATO:

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis that is affecting charities, the ACNC Commissioner has granted an extension to the due date of the 2019 AIS.  Your charity's 2019 AIS due date as listed on the ACNC Charity Register may not have been updated to reflect the extension yet. This will occur in the coming days.

The ATO and the ACNC will host a free webinar for charities and not-for-profits about the Government stimulus measure that affects them, as well as issues that are affecting charity operations during the crisis. The ATO will discuss the implications of the Government’s Boosting Cash Flow for Employers measure, including what’s available to charities and NFPs and where to get advice.

Date: Monday 30 March 2020
Time: 12pm AEST
Cost: Free
View webinar recording here

Note: Registration is now full, but the webinar recording will be available on their website via the above link following the live presentation.

You can also find out information about how the Government measure affects charities and not-for-profits on the Australian Taxation Office website page Boosting Cashflow for Employers.

LIGHT-HEARTED:

Because it helps to read some good news stories too!
Coronavirus Crisis Prompts Australian Acts of Kindness
Aussie Legend Beats Travel Ban with Hilarious Visit My Backyard Video

STAY UP TO DATE

COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving situation, and all Affiliates are reminded to stay on top of the latest information. Learn more by referring to trusted sources, such as:

UPDATES FROM CCVT

Along with the email updates, the CCVT website has a new Coronavirus page at https://www.churchesofchrist.org.au/coronavirus. Please bookmark to your browser. 

We will be transitioning all the resources and updates to this page so thanks for your patience as we set this up.

(Depending on which Government website / statement you read, there may be some confusion over how long the current restriction of religious activities is for. CCVT encourages you to assume a minimum of 4 weeks, but plan for 6 months.  This is a constantly evolving situation, and we will try to make it clearer not more confusing for you.)

Yesterday the National Cabinet agreed to move to more widespread restrictions on social gatherings for at least 6 months.  The following facilities are now restricted from opening from midday local time 23 March 2020:

  • Pubs, registered and licenced clubs (excluding bottle shops attached to these venues), hotels (excluding accommodation)
  • Gyms and indoor sporting venues
  • Cinemas, entertainment venues, casinos, and night clubs
  • Restaurants and cafes will be restricted to takeaway and/or home delivery
  • Religious gatherings, places of worship, or funerals (in enclosed spaces and other than very small groups and where the 1 person per 4 square metre rule applies).

These measures also apply to outdoor spaces associated with the above venues.

Source: www.pm.gov.au/media/update-coronavirus-measures-220320

Source: www.health.gov.au/news/australian-health-protection-principal-committee-ahppc-coronavirus-covid-19-statement-on-22-march-2020

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR AFFILIATES:

The current restrictions mean that unfortunately, most churches and agencies will now be ceasing most, if not all, in-person activities and functions.   For those that are continuing to meet in a very limited capacity, it is imperative that you do so only if essential and even then, under the very highest level of risk management. 

This is not a time for finding loopholes in the recommendations or the restrictions – the goal is to reduce the spread of the virus, to flatten the curve and to save the lives of fellow Australians.

This is a time for putting the care of others first, leading within our communities, being good citizens, and creating safe spaces for God to work through our community.  If that means we meet less than what we want to, less than we think we should be able to, then so be it – this is about keeping as much physical distance from other people and doingwhat we can to limit the spread of the coronavirus, not just what is preferable to the situation.

In addition to the restrictions around non-essential mass gatherings, CCVT recommends:

  • Immediately ceasing all gatherings where you cannot easily adhere to both the 4 square meter per person rule AND the 1.5 meters social distance rule. If you cannot meet both recommendations, then you are not safe to meet regardless of how few people attend, or if you are indoors or outdoors.
  • Immediately start transitioning staff and volunteers to be able to work from home.  This may not be required full time right now by everyone, but preparation is key in the event that further restrictions are enforced on workplaces.
  • Immediately start using technology – unless your plan is to just close down entirely and cease all operations, learn how to use the technology that will allow you to hold meetings online, move pastoral care to phone, letters, email, or video conferencing, accept online tithes and donations, and keep in contact with one another.  Further resources to help you can be found below.

For those that like a good risk management infographic, consider this CCVT document “Hierarchy of Controls for Gatherings” when assessing if you should meet in person.

CAN YOU STILL MEET TO PRODUCE ONLINE SERVICES?

Many churches have started running their services online – and some are seeing higher than average attendance!

For those wondering if the team can still turn up at church to actually run, livestream or record the service, the answer is yes (at the moment). 

  • Along with all the normal applicable hygiene and gathering restrictions, specific advice received from the Department of Health and Human Services was that:
  • only the people needed in order to run the service/record can attend (e.g. minister, worship leader, communion leader, audio/visual operators)
  • lock the doors so that no one else can enter the building
  • everyone must keep at least 1.5 metres from each other (social distancing)
  • use alcohol wipes to wipe equipment being used 
  • do not share microphones if possible
  • be aware that this advice may change in the near future

For those wondering about musicians and other speakers, CCVT recommends the use of pre-recorded music and videos, to minimise the people required.

A CALL TO PRAYER:

Congregations across Australia are pausing to pray at 7pm nightly for: 19 minutes of prayer at 1900 hours in response to Covid-19. Given the current limits on gatherings, this is a simple way we can encourage our churches to respond in faith, with a call to prayer based on the words of 2 Chronicles 7:14

For further details see: https://ausprayernet.org.au/urgent-call-for-national-prayer-for-the-coronavirus-covid-19-crisis/

A MESSAGE FROM ROB NYHUIS, EXECUTIVE OFFICER

Click here to read a message to CCVT Affiliates from our Executive Officer Rob Nyhuis.

Rob is also posting videos on the CCVT Facebook page which you can view here: https://www.facebook.com/ChurchesofChristVicTas/videos/324137645211186/

PROTECTING CHURCH PROPERTY DURING THE LOCK DOWN PERIOD:

With the decreased usage of church building and offices during the lockdown, please use the checklist below to help in securing preserving and caring for the church property whilst vacant.

  • Nominate a person to stop by the property at least twice each week during this time to ensure that the building has no visible signs of forced entry or unusual activity and vandalism. Do not just drive by but walk around and in the building where necessary and ensure it is secured. 
  • Ensure all utilities such as gas and electricity points being used are turned off at the switch. Unplug any electrical devices not needed during this time.
  • If there are any toxic substances that may cause contamination and might harm people or emergency responders, they should be removed.
  • Keep parking areas and sidewalks clear and in good condition.
  • Make sure the electricity for exit signs and emergency lighting is on.
  • The exterior of the building should be cleared of cardboard, paper, brush and scrap wood.
  • Ensure all rubbish bins are secured if not being used to avoid them being vandalised.
  • Keep all windows and doors securely closed.
  • Remove all mail left at the door where necessary (redirect delivered mail to someone’s home if possible)
  • Any and all alarm systems where needed to be on and where secured to back to base tested and working.

Depending on your relationship with your next door neighbours, it may be worth letting them know the contact details of who they can call after hours if they are concerned about security or notice any unusual activity.  Any damage or break-ins should be reported to the police as per usual.

SCAM ALERT:

Please be aware that scams have now started in relation to COVID-19.  It is important that we make sure everyone is going to trusted sources for information, and that our people (particularly older people who are often targeted) are aware of how these scams work so that they can protect themselves. 

Stay Smart Online

INSURANCE:

As Affiliates decide if, when, and how they will continue to meet in smaller groups, questions have started to roll in regarding how insurance cover may be impacted by continuing to run face-to-face activities during the pandemic. The Government has put significant risk management guidelines in place around things like social distancing, hygiene, and limiting numbers at gatherings. It is important to remember that COVID-19 is a known issue and therefore a potential foreseeable event, and that by gathering together, even in minimal numbers, you are increasing the chances of someone spreading the virus. Therefore, it is important to follow these risk management strategies.

If you have any questions or concerns about how your activities may impact your insurance coverage, please contact Greg McLean or Meera Livingston at Churches of Christ Insurance on 03 9488 8800.

INFORMATION ABOUT FUNERALS:

Practical information on the conducting of funerals is still being developed. Ministers and families should consult with the relevant funeral home for advice specific to their circumstances.

Bethel Funerals have provided some useful information on their site www.bethelfunerals.com.au/covid-19.

CAN WE CONTACT CCVT STAFF?

Yes! We are here to support you!  All CCVT staff are now working from home – the office in Fairfield in now closed and we have redirected all phones and mail. Our staff will also be making contact with every Affiliate in the coming weeks, but if you need us sooner than that please call or email.

Please continue to remember us in prayer as we remember you.

We are working on updating our website and we appreciate your patience as we sort it out to make it a more user-friendly resource for Affiliates. In the meanwhile….

RESOURCES FOR CCVT AFFILIATES 

How to talk to your child about Novel Coronavirus

Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) and Workers Compensation in Tasmania

Important information about self-isolation for people who are not sick

Tasmanian Hotlines

Tasmanian border restrictions

8 ways to lead in the new digital default church

WHAT ARE CHURCHES DOING?

The pandemic has created many burdens, but alongside this it has also created many opportunities for churches and faith communities to minister to its community and lead by example. In the midst of all the fear and focus on self, we get to demonstrate our love for our neighbour, to live out the parable of the Good Samaritan, to pastorally care for those who may have previously rejected it, to and embrace both the practicality and the heart of the message of Jesus.  We should also be looking to see what opportunities each church has to be a calm voice of hope and compassion to those who may be anxious or fearful. 

We may need to think outside the square or try new things so here are a few links so you can see what other churches are doing and saying:

If you would like to share your ideas with other Affiliates, please email the details to safeplace@churchesofchrist.org.au as we would love to continue sharing resources.

TIP OF THE WEEK!

Together Church in Hobart have created The Online Pastor, a resource for leaders of small to medium sized churches who need help transitioning to an online environment in response to COVID-19.

You can also join the Facebook Group here https://www.facebook.com/groups/326785064944278/ to have a chat and share your thoughts and idea - and if you find this group helpful, please invite your colleagues! 

STAY UP TO DATE

COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving situation, and all Affiliates are reminded to stay on top of the latest information. Learn more by referring to trusted sources, such as:

  • Anyone arriving in Australia from overseas must self-isolate for 14 days (effective from midnight Sunday 15 March 2020).
  • There is now a ban on non-essential indoor gatherings of more than 100 people (was previously 500), with exceptions for schools, public transport, supermarkets and many other places – all Affiliates should start considering how they will now proceed or how they may proceed if that number drops further. 
  • Gatherings of less than 100 people that are “non-essential” should be avoided or minimised – leadership teams should be ready to make firm decisions about what they consider “essential” in their context.
  • There will be restrictions on who can visit aged care centres – pastoral carers should check with each facility before visiting, and check if they are also required to have had a flu vaccination
  • The Federal Government is advising Australians not to travel overseas (this may impact church mission trips and annual leave arrangements for staff). 

A MESSAGE FROM ROB NYHUIS, EXECUTIVE OFFICER

Click here to read a message to CCVT Affiliates from our Executive Officer Rob Nyhuis.

CCVT EVENTS 

It is with great regret that we advise you of the need to cancel the 2020 CCVT Summit and State Youth Games; though we are developing other strategies to achieve necessary outcomes for the 2020 CCVT Annual General Meeting. These regrettable decisions have been necessitated by the likelihood of protracted bans on mass gatherings in the face of the Coronavirus pandemic.

It is anticipated that (pending government advice re COVID-19 at that stage) regional gatherings will be held later this year, in lieu of Summit, to discuss some exciting strategic planning and other initiatives so that we can best receive feedback and interact with people across Victoria and Tasmania. These events will also offer plenty of opportunity for combined prayer, discussion and networking, and will be likely to be held in August and September.

The CCVT AGM planned for Tuesday 12th of May will be conducted in a revised format, with details to be advised soon. We ask for your patience as we navigate arrangements.

The SYG Committee will communicate with teams separately, but please remember these teams in your prayers as this is a significant annual ministry event for many churches.

Small training workshops or events are currently being assessed on a case by case basis. At this stage, several smaller workshops and activities will continue to operate within government guidelines in accordance with safe practices.

SHOULD WE STOP MEETING?

Over the last couple of weeks, many churches have begun wrestling with the decision to cease or continue to gather for services. For some of our larger services, that decision was made for them. The common questions leaders are asking include:

  • What is a better duty of care - is it by meeting, or not meeting?
  • Should we cancel this activity altogether or just run it differently?
  • How do we keep physical distance from each other but not lose the opportunity to love and care for one another when we need it most?
  • Should we invest in technology resources and up-skilling our leaders so they can run things online, or just tap into other churches online services?

At the end of the day, the decision about how, when and if you stop meeting in person is a local decision. It will be based on a number of factors including (but not limited to) the reason for the gathering (essential or non-essential), the size and scale of the event, the hygiene processes you can reasonably put in to play, the vulnerability of the people who attend and the people they go home to, and the current advice received from government and health officials. 

If you have decided to continue meeting, please make sure you have done a risk assessment before proceeding. You can find more information about risk assessments in the attachments or here.

For many of our Affiliates, closing services may be inevitable, so get ready by making some basic plans now. Remember, the church is the church whether we are scattered or gathered!

RESOURCES

CCVT webpage for COVID-19 Advice and Resources (This new page will be updated regularly with advice and resources for CCVT Affiliates)

National Campaign Resources to inform all Australians about the coronavirus

Translated Resources and Posters

Information on Social Distancing

Advice for Organising Public Gatherings

Online Infection Control Training

TOP 10 ACTIONS TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OF COVID-19 AT YOUR GATHERING

1.  Undertake a thorough risk assessment before deciding to proceed with the meeting or event

2.  Promote preventive actions amongst your staff and volunteers – lead by example and use resources in all languages as required

3.  Consult local public health authorities on your level of risk

4.  Advise sick employees and participants to stay at home

5.  Plan ways to reduce in-person contact for participants and staff while they are at the event

6.  Provide and promote use of hand wash and using alcohol sanitisers

7.  Plan for increased levels of staff/volunteer absences and those who turn up sick

8.  Identify a space that can be used to isolate staff or participants who become sick

9.  Ensure high standards of routine environmental cleaning, especially of commonly touched surfaces

10. Keep staff and participants informed of the actions you are taking

For more information on organising gatherings, see the Dept of Health advice for organising public gatherings.

If you would like to discuss your particular circumstances, we are happy to have a chat over the phone and help you decide what is right for your community.  Give us a call. 

WHAT CAN CHURCHES BE DOING?

The pandemic has created many burdens, but alongside this it has also created many opportunities for churches and faith communities to minister to its community and lead by example. In the midst of all the fear and focus on self, we get to demonstrate our love for our neighbour, to live out the parable of the Good Samaritan, to pastorally care for those who may have previously rejected it, to and embrace both the practicality and the heart of the message of Jesus.  We should also be looking to see what opportunities each church has to be a calm voice of hope and compassion to those who may be anxious or fearful. 

We may need to think outside the square or try new things so here are a few links so you can see what other churches are doing and saying (up to date as at 18/3/2020).

If you would like to share your ideas with other Affiliates, please email the details to safeplace@churchesofchrist.org.au as we would love to continue sharing resources.

VERSES OF ENCOURAGEMENT AND HOPE IN CHALLENGING TIMES

2 Corinthians 1:3-5
Psalm 91:1-4
Habakkuk 3:17-19
Philippians 4:4-8
James 4:8 😉
Psalm 46
Psalm 103:8-17
Isaiah 41:10
Psalm 32:6-7
Isaiah 43:1-3
Psalm 27:1-3
1 Peter 5:7
2 Timothy 1:7
Psalm 112:6-8
Philippians 4:12-13
2 Thessalonians 3:16

TIPS FOR MOVING TO ONLINE GATHERINGS

  • See the attached Basic Live Streaming Guide (with thanks to Mitchell Salmon).
  • If you're wanting to live stream, you can do basic but good things with a $100 webcam, a free YouTube channel or Facebook page, and OBS (https://obsproject.com).
  • If you're wanting to do video or audio small groups and interactive meetings, have a look at Zoom (https://zoom.us) which has free account options. It works well on phone and computers with webcam/microphone, making it a good option for most folks to join in.
  • Please acknowledge that you are recording or live streaming the service at the beginning of the service so that people know they are being recorded.
  • Be sure to welcome your online visitors so they feel more included.
  • Be mindful that you do not divulge personal and sensitive identifying information, particularly during announcements and prayer time.
  • Make sure that any music or videos you use are within your licensing and copyright requirements (https://au.ccli.com), you cannot just download content from YouTube and play it.  Please ensure you have the appropriate permissions.

TIPS FOR CARING FOR YOUR COMMUNITY

  • Please acknowledge that you are recording or live streaming the service at the beginning of the service so that people know they are being recorded.
  • Keep note of who hasn’t attended church so that you can give them a call and see how they are going.
  • If you know of people in your community who are unwell, let your pastoral team know so that they can pray for them and follow up with them in practical and safe ways.
  • Use ZoomWhatsApp groups and other secure apps and platforms to create a sense of online community regardless of individual physical location.  These groups can then meet online regularly to pray together, study scripture, be a practical blessing to others, and the good news is that this can be opened open to other people who are isolated in the wider community including unchurched.
  • Provide tech support for those who need help accessing online services, resources, or groups.
  • Update your church directory so that you can communicate more reliably.
  • Show people how to use online shopping delivery or offer to do it for them.
  • Tap into local supports that are already operating online and offline – your church does not need to duplicate or invent everything from scratch
  • Circulate prayers and opportunities for people to study the bible on their own, as a household, or as part of a small group

TIP OF THE DAY!

Tip of the day goes to York Street Church of Christ who found this video online and for suggesting this idea of double cupping communion.  The link: https://youtu.be/VIBZ3ZVUTSo  

STAY UP TO DATE

COVID-19 is a rapidly evolving situation, and all Affiliates are reminded to stay on top of the latest information. Learn more by referring to trusted sources, such as:

Please contact our office if you would like to discuss any specific issues for your church, or if you have resources that you think might be of help to other Affiliates.

Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Dr Brendan Murphy has today advised the PM and State Premieres to implement a ban on mass gatherings of more than 500 people, starting from Monday 16 March 2020.

The advice is against "static events", meaning people should still go to work, school and university, which will have an impact on the running of church services. There is no advice against public transport and domestic travel.

We encourage you to consider this as you prepare for your activities this weekend and in coming weeks, and ensure you communicate well with your congregation about your plans.

We also encourage you to, where possible, reduce the size of gatherings, postpone non-essential meetings and events or move them online, promote remote access to worship services, minimise close personal contact, and minimise involvement by non-essential staff/volunteers/participants. This is a temporary pre-emptive arrangement, aimed at reducing or minimising the overall impact of the coronavirus on our community.

RESOURCES

Attached are some sample resources that you might find helpful in your context, including:

CCVT EVENTS

At this stage, no decisions have been made concerning cancellation of any mass event that is run by CCVT e.g. Summit or State Youth Games. 

We will continue to monitor the government and state health advisories leading up to the events in May and June 2020 and decisions will be made as appropriate and communicated to all.

STAY UP TO DATE

The coronavirus is a rapidly evolving situation, and all Affiliates are reminded to stay on top of the latest information. Learn more by referring to trusted sources, such as:

Please contact our office if you would like to discuss any specific issues for your church, or if you have resources that you think might be of help to other Affiliates.

2020 is proving to be quite the year! 

The outbreak of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) is yet another opportunity for CCVT Affiliates to show the love of Jesus and be a positive support to our communities in the face of difficult times, but we also want to make sure we do it safely.

Here are some practical ways to reduce risk of spreading the virus, adapt our normal activities and services, tailor a fact-based response, and reassure those who may be feeling fearful or anxious for themselves or their loved ones.

UNDERSTAND AND COMMUNICATE ACCURATE BASIC INFORMATION:

On 30 January 2020, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness caused by a new virus. Symptoms range from a mild cough to pneumonia. Most people recover easily, but some people may get very sick very quickly. There is evidence that it spreads from person to person, so good hygiene can prevent infection. 

The coronavirus is thought to be spread largely through respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing and comes from close contact with an infected person, mostly face-to-face or within a household.  It may also be possible to become infected by touching a contaminated surface or object and then touching your nose or mouth. Although it can be spread from a cough or sneeze droplets for a few metres, it cannot be carried for long distances in the air.

Practising good hand and sneeze/cough hygiene is the best defence against most viruses.

  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, before and after eating, and after going to the toilet.
  • Cover your cough and sneeze, dispose of tissues, and use alcohol-based hand sanitiser.
  • If unwell, avoid contact with others (stay more than 1.5 metres from people).

HYGIENE SUPPLIES AND PRACTICES:

Whilst coronavirus is of concern, it is important to remember that most people displaying symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat or tiredness are likely suffering with a cold or other respiratory illness – not coronavirus.

To reduce the spread of all colds, flus, and viruses:

  • Make sure your facilities are well stocked with easily accessible supplies of hand soap, paper towel, tissues, disposable gloves, disinfectant, hand sanitiser, and rubbish bins.
  • Remove cloth hand towels, and kitchen dishcloths that are likely to harbour germs and replace them with disposable or single use options.
  • Surfaces which are touched regularly should be cleaned frequently using detergent and water or a detergent-based cleaner, including door handles, handrails, kitchen and bathroom areas, phones, light switches, security alarm pads, name badges, bibles, pens, touchscreens, heating/cooling controls etc.
  • Disinfect toys, play equipment and craft supplies – this may be very time consuming to do frequently so it may be worth temporarily minimising stocks of what is available.
  • Make sure any morning tea supplies are clean and that servers wash hand before and during preparation and serving of food and drinks.
  • Make cleanliness a visible practice - get everyone on board.
  • Be alert for poor practices or behaviours where sickness can be spread (e.g. people openly coughing, use of handkerchiefs, kids touching food etc), and remind people gently but clearly about the need to adhere to good hygiene practices.

Note: Surgical masks in the community are mostly only helpful in preventing people who have coronavirus disease from spreading it to others. If you are well, you do not need to wear a surgical mask as there is little evidence supporting the widespread use of surgical masks in healthy people to prevent transmission in public. If you are unwell, you should stay home.

COMMUNICATION:

Be ready, willing and able to communicate quickly and clearly with your congregation or faith community, keeping both pastoral and practical issues in mind. Good communication is important in reassuring those who are fearful, anxious or confused – let people know what your organisation is doing to keep them safe, how services or programs may be changing, and who they can speak to if they have concerns.

  • Keep your team and faith community up to date with relevant and accurate information about changes to services, best methods to communicate with staff, safe hygiene practices etc.
  • Communicate the same messages in a variety of ways to reinforce it - utilise your welcome team, put up Dept of Health posters in common areas, make announcements during services, use PowerPoint slides in different languages, update your website, utilise newsletters, send email and SMS notifications to members – all of these are great ways to reinforce the need for good hygiene practices, explain changes to communion or greeting styles, quarantine requirements, and alert people to any closures or reductions in your events/services. 
  • Consider the best ways to communicate with kids, people who speak other languages, people who are vison or hearing impaired, or are visitors and may not know the current etiquette of your organisation.
  • Make sure that your staff contact details are up to date so that communication flows easily.
  • Confirm passwords and know who can access and update your website, church management software, mass email/SMS functions, Facebook/social media, office voicemail greeting, wayside pulpit/signage, Google and other online sources so that you can make required changes to your content and communicate accurately with the community.

GREETING/WELCOMING:

Providing a warm welcome to people as they arrive is a vital part of fellowship and a handshake, hug or high five is very common practice. Unfortunately, it is also a very common form of transmission of viruses and bacteria.

  • Consider moving to a hands-free greeting style for a while – actively explain to people (including kids) that we aren’t shaking hands or high fiving each other at the moment but provide a big smile, a wave, and warm words of welcome – have some fun with it by encouraging air-fives!
  • Do not hug or kiss people as they arrive.
  • Greeters/welcome team to wash hands before handing out orders or service/newsletters.
  • Provide hand sanitiser stations that are easily accessible at all entry points and encourage their use by all people (pretend you are on a cruise ship!)
  • Avoid touching your face (or others).
  • Avoid physical contact during service (e.g. passing the peace, laying of hand while praying).
  • Promote and explain the current practice from the pulpit, in newsletters, and on the screen so that everyone can learn.

PASTORAL CARE:

Pastoral care is a fundamental aspect of church and faith communities. We want to continue providing this, but not at the risk of making people sick. Our aim is not to cease providing care, but to think of a workaround or alternative way of doing it that achieves the good aspect of maintaining spiritual health, without unduly risking people’s physical health:

  • Evaluate the necessity of meeting face to face – can pastoral care be provided over the phone or by other supports, rather than in person?
  • You may see an increase in the need for pastoral support services. Make it easy for people to communicate with you and each other without compromising health by being clear about your preferred method of communication and how support will be provided e.g. use of prayer requests cards, web forms, contacting a specific person or team member, use of a preferred phone number or email address, prayer chain, limited hours of availability and so on. 
  • Be proactive about reassuring those who may be feeling fearful or isolated – make extra contact with the vulnerable to let them know they are loved, being prayed for, and are part of the community even if they cannot attend services or programs.
  • Ministers and pastoral carers who are visiting hospitals and aged care facilities must adhere to the instructions given in each facility – do not visit if you are unwell or if you know that you have been exposed to people who have been diagnosed with flu or viruses – you might feel fine but may still be contagious.
  • Remind pastoral carers to consider the practical limitations of home visitation – can you afford to be exposed to people who are unwell if it then means you cannot visit anyone else in person for 14 days or need to self-quarantine?
  • Like the flu, the coronavirus is afflicting high risk groups: the elderly, people with underlying medical conditions, and those who are immunocompromised.  This means these people (and those who care for them) may need to make some difficult decisions around staying home to protect their health. Isolation or a fear of not meeting their commitments and letting the team down may be a stress factor. Help them to make wise decisions by encouraging self-care, being quick to relieve people of tasks or responsibilities that others can cover, and staying in contact with their faith community in other ways.
  • Do not enter any home that is in quarantine for coronavirus. These people must not let in visitors.

PROVIDING COMMUNION:

As always, basic food safety rules do apply to this beautiful practice! The aim is to remove unnecessary close physical contact and minimise the touching of food that others will ingest:

  • Wash hands and all utensils thoroughly before setting up or preparing communion.
  • Use individual wafers/bread/crackers - avoid loaves where people are pulling or breaking it apart with their hands.
  • Make it easy for people to take one piece or be handed a piece without touching other pieces.
  • Use individual cups - avoid drinking from communal cups including dipping bread/wafers into a communal cup.
  • Ministers and communion servers must wash hands thoroughly and use hand sanitiser before touching the trays/plates/cups (consider wearing gloves and handing it out).
  • Distribute communion from stationery distribution points rather than handing trays to each other down the row of seats.
  • Consider handing out the elements to each person with gloves or washed hands.
  • Discard all leftovers – do not rebottle unused juice or store bread/wafers for future use.
  • All cups, plates, trays and any linens must be washed very thoroughly after every use.
  • Depending on your current practice (and future public health developments) you may consider suspending communion temporarily.

FOOD SAFETY:

Where Christian’s gather, hospitality is likely.  Tea, coffee and food are nice to have but in many instances are actually secondary to the purpose of meeting.   

  • Consider temporarily suspending the morning tea gathering after services.
  • Where meals are part of the provision of services, ensure all people to adhere to hand washing and other food safety guidelines, especially children.
  • Provide and insist that all participants use hand sanitiser on entry to the eating area.
  • Deep clean kitchens, bins, tables and chairs after use.

For those affiliates who provide large scale community meals as a regular service, or who operate a commercial kitchen, please follow the appropriate government and food safety guidelines for these activities.

USING TECHNOLOGY:

Technology resources and skill vary considerably from church to church and agency to agency.  Consider what is available to you, and what is reasonable to achieve for your context. Don’t feel you need to suddenly invest in equipment or software that won’t be part of your normal services – this will only add financial pressure and frustration to those administrating it! Work within your means, and be good stewards of people’s time and energy by adopting some basic practices:

  • Disinfect microphones, instruments, sound desks and other shared equipment.
  • Don’t share microphones during a service – issue one per person and clean them prior to use and afterwards.
  • Consider using recorded music or downsizing the band to reduce the amount of people gathering for band rehearsals and setup/pack up.
  • If capable, consider minimising physical contact by taking gatherings and meetings online rather than face-to-face (adhere to privacy and copyright restrictions).
  • Find out if your constitution allows for Board meetings to be held online or for members to dial in if they cannot get there in person? Can you resolve decisions via email?
  • Promote sermon recordings or live streaming of worship services for those who cannot attend - check out One ChurchKardinia ChurchRed ChurchBoronia Church of ChristDiscovery ChurchLiving FaithBerwick Church of ChristWilliamstown Church of Christ  (or find a couple of options that you think will suit your congregations style) and be ready to assist those who may not be confident with technology.

COLLECTING AND COUNTING TITHES AND OFFERINGS:

Cash and offering bowls are easily contaminated items as they pass through so many hands. 

  • Encourage people to move to online giving which will reduce the need for handling cash.
  • Disinfect offering bowls/collection plates after each use.
  • Consider suspending passing the plates around and locate offering collection in a stationary place.
  • Offering counters to wash hands thoroughly before and after counting cash.

PLANNING FOR INTERRUPTION TO SERVICES:

As a leadership team, decide now what your plan will be if you are required to reduce or cease services:

  • Who will make the final call about cancelling services?  (If the Government requires worship services to cease, you must conform).
  • How will you notify your team?
  • How will you notify the congregation or program participants? 
  • Who will make the decision to resume activities?
  • What local or online supports will you endorse or encourage your faith community to turn to if you are unable to provide services?
  • Are there casual or less crucial programs or activities that can be temporarily suspended now so that people aren’t gathering?   

MAKE IT OK TO STAY HOME:

For many people, the decision to stay away from church or faith community gatherings is a big one.  Many will be hesitant to make that call, especially if they are only experiencing minor symptoms (such as you might expect if you have a common cold), or if they have obligations or responsibilities at the activity. Encourage good practice by communicating clearly that:

  • People should stay home if they have even minor symptoms of cold or flu, including runny nose, sore throat, coughing, sneezing, shortness of breath and/or a temperature above 38 degrees Celsius and should leave immediately if they develop these symptoms while on site.
  • People must stay home if they have left, or transited through mainland China, Iran, or Republic of Korea in the last 14 days (they must isolate themselves for 14 days).
  • People must stay home if they have been in close contact with a confirmed case of coronavirus in the last 14 days (they must isolate themselves for 14 days after the date of last contact with the confirmed case).
  • If staff/volunteers are in isolation they should alert the leadership team immediately. If they are well, discuss alternative arrangements, such as working from home. 
  • Remind people that staying home when sick or in quarantine is for the greater good – reinforce a culture of safety that is calm but proactive.

STAY UP TO DATE:

The coronavirus is a rapidly evolving situation, and all Affiliates are reminded to stay on top of the latest information. Learn more by referring to trusted sources, such as:

FINAL THOUGHTS:

Remember, this is a temporary situation.  It may not be the ideal way of doing church or being a faith community but making reasonable adjustments in times such as these is the best way to protect our communities and still provide pastoral care and worship opportunities. 

Let us know what your church or agency is doing in response to this issue – let’s learn from one another and share our ideas.