8 May 2020
Pastoral Letter to the Diocese of Waiapu
E te whanau a te Karaiti o te Pihopatanga o Waiapu,
Greetings to you all in this season of Eastertide. I am writing to you today to outline how we are preparing for a possible announcement by the Prime Minister on Monday 11 May that would signal when we can move into COVID-19 Level 2.
I would like to begin by acknowledging the wonderful work that has been done across all of the Diocese of Waiapu to help sustain a sense of worshipping together during the Lockdown period so far. It has been tremendously encouraging to hear about the efforts of our Clergy and Lay leaders to ensure that pastoral care has been able to continue by phone or online platforms and that worship has been resourced for individuals at home through pamphlets dropped in letterboxes and offered online for those who can access it as well. It has been a real joy for me to be able to participate in this by offering two services a week by ZOOM on Wednesday and Sunday evenings. It has been a good time to bring people together from across the whole Diocese to worship together. So, my thanks and appreciation to our Clergy and Lay Leaders for making this all possible.
I would also like to acknowledge the tremendous efforts of our Diocesan Office team who have continued to provide outstanding service to Parishes, Anglican Care Waiapu, our governance boards and other groups that we serve in the community. It has also been great to see that our Anglican Care Waiapu team have been able to continue their work during Lockdown and worked hard to maintain services to the community where possible, in particular opening many of our Early Childhood Centres last week. These teams have worked from home and done an amazing job of continuing to provide the services we rely on all the while managing their own home life with home-schooling and all the added pressures we have felt with Lockdown.
Over the past two weeks my team have been working on a series of detailed Implementation Guidelines which were sent to all Parish Clergy and Wardens and LSM reps on Monday this week. These guidelines are a tool that each Vestry will use to make an assessment of what activities can take place in your Parish setting under Level 2, and then make plans for those activities. While there are many things that are permissible under Level 2, I have instructed our Parish Clergy to take a considered approach when deciding with Vestries what will take place and when. As we heard from the Prime Minister this week Level 2 still requires us to maintain physical distancing, personal hygiene, contact tracing and caution. The implementation guidelines that we have prepared cover all these expectations and when followed will ensure that your Parish will have made preparations with your wellbeing as the highest priority.
It may be that your Parish Vestry decide to delay returning for worship for a few weeks under Level 2 until they build some confidence of life in Level 2, while continuing to offer alternatives to public worship. Some parishes may be able to open for public worship soon after Level 2 is announced. Both options are ok, as we all need to move with a level of preparedness that prioritises personal well-being and safety.
When we gather for worship in our churches again you can expect things to be a bit different under Level 2. Contact Tracing means that we need to record the details of everyone who attends a service. There will be hand sanitiser available for your convenience, or you may be encouraged to bring your own, and you will be encouraged to use it regularly. New hygiene procedures will have been implemented to ensure that all high use surfaces like door handles, shared surfaces and taps are cleaned regularly. We will only offer Eucharist in one-kind, the bread only, to minimise the risk of transmission. Inside the church we will be seated at a safe physical distance from one another and the way we move around the church will be directed at maintaining that distance. We won’t share the peace by shaking hands. We may not have morning tea following Sunday services for a while until we gain some confidence with the expectations of providing food within our parishes. There will be other things put in place depending on your local context as well.
Similar measures will be in place when we gather for groups like AAW or Youth Groups, although we may not see those begin for a while yet. Also, our Opportunity Shops will be able to open under these guidelines and we have specific measures in place for the shops to follow as well.
All of these actions are taken to prioritise your well-being and conform to the provisions and restrictions under COVID-19 Level 2.
I am looking forward to a time when we can gather in person to see one another and experience being together as the body of Christ. In the meantime, as we make careful preparations to enable that to happen safely we can continue to rejoice that as the church we are present in the world, wherever we are, as we unite with one another in prayer.
If you have any questions about what COVID-19 Level 2 will look like for your parish I encourage you to wait to hear from your Vicar or Wardens once an announcement is made by the Prime Minister about when we will move into Level 2. The Vestry will be able to confirm decisions about what will happen in your parish once we know when we will move into COVID-19 Level 2.
I wish you God’s peace with prayers for your safety and well-being during this time and I do look forward to joining with you again in worship.
Yours in Christ
The Right Reverend Andrew Hedge Bishop of Waiapu
8 May 2020