Welcome back to church, Sunday school and Bible study. We are looking forward to seeing our families and the elderly again – and later to enjoy celebrating our congregation festival and camp. But all this will take place under strict hygiene requirements for an indefinite time. Everything will be more complicated than before Corona, smaller and atmospherically different. Every event, since the first attempt at worship on May 17, causes some tension between those who would like to come and those who do not feel comfortable to come. Some consider the risk of infection to be low and ask for more events with more face to face time. As a church committee, we determine that infection rates in Australia are lower than in Europe and America – but the virus is just as dangerous here as it is there. Therefore, we recommend that members who belong to risk groups (people with pre-existing conditions such as asthma or who are immunocompromised) stay at home. There may be couples who disagree about this subject: one partner attends the service without the other. The other remains worriedly at home, “Might the other person catch COVID-19 at church?” Fuel that nobody in the community wants. Church must be a place of trust. Or it misses its mission to call all people into communion before God and to protect the vulnerable. All those who do attend follow strict hygiene and distance protocols to regain confidence from those who are worried. We do follow the government regulations with the focus on minimizing transmission possibilities of COVID-19 as far as it is in our power. The government is slowly relaxing restrictions after the lockdown and people dare to go out cautiously (!), we do not want people to lose confidence in our church through recklessness. We can carry out events with an exceptionally low risk of contagion, here at the city church as well as in church services in the aged care home. Prior to each event, we plan carefully to make sure social distancing and hygiene protocols are met. We expect questions in advance: “Did you remember to … (hygiene related questions)? Do you really want this to happen?” These questions are an important check to double check if we planned thoroughly. Therefore: Please ask your questions, share your concerns with the event manager. During the events we need “watchdogs” who may point out rules to participants such as social distancing or using hand sanitizers. Please follow the instructions of these volunteers. This will help people who are hesitant to return back to church, to gain more confidence in our congregation.
Now some people might question the much higher effort for much smaller events. Some churches in Melbourne do not open their doors again until spring. We think it is worth inviting now: people enjoy coming to church after weeks of isolation. They are happy to finally meet other families, to listen to organ music again and to absorb the atmosphere in our church. Above all, the church fulfils its mission to bring people together with the word of God. If everyone focuses on the well-being and health of all, then we will make God’s blessing great amongst us. We build trust amongst ourselves, in a world of loneliness and isolation. We strengthen the hope that God will open more doors to communities than we can imagine today: with the experience of feeling safe.
Your Pastor Christoph