Monday, August 31, 2020

Let me Level With You ... My Concerns about Church in Level 2

 Every country is dealing with the Pandemic in slightly different ways, so what follows may make most sense to Kiwis.

Until 11.59 pm last night, most of NZ by area was in Level 2, and our largest population centre, Auckland city (c. 1/3rd of total population) was at Level 3. Today Auckland is at Level 2.5 and the rest of NZ is at Level 2. By the end of Sunday 6 September the Government will have clarified what level or levels we are in after that. Some of us are predicting that we will remain in Level 2, across the whole country, for a few more weeks.

Explanation: Level 2 means congregations up to 100 people can meet. Level 3 congregations of up to 10 people can meet. (Level 2.5 has same meeting numbers as Level 3, except (from memory) funerals can have up to 50 people). Level 3 meant Aucklanders were restricted from travelling outside their city, unless they had an exemption.

So, from a Diocese of Christchurch point of view, yesterday we were in Level 2 without Aucklanders or recent travellers from Auckland present but next Sunday we will be in Level 2, potentially with Aucklanders or recent travellers from Auckland present.

Should we change our Level 2 Guidelines to our parishes before next Sunday?

I am not going to answer that question here. Any answer needs to be communicated to the Diocese via normal channels!

But what I am happy to observe here (accumulating observations from a number of services in different locations across the last three Sundays, as well as some funerals) is that it is very challenging to follow all Level 2 Guidelines scrupulously. We are giving it our best shot but it is very difficult (say) to remain 1m, let alone 2m, from someone we talk to after church!!

Let's put that another way: to be as scrupulous as the Pharisees, let alone the Essenes, in following "ALL the requirements of the Law/Guidelines" raises the question: is it actually possible to be church (gathering physically within a building) in Level 2?

Now, it could be that by next Monday 7 September, NZ is back in Level 1 and we all relax ecclesiastically speaking.

But if we do remain in Level 2 for some weeks, even months ahead, what are we to do in order to be safe and in order to not be a church congregation which is a "cluster" maker?

Personally, I wonder if the Government would help us out if it were to extend its current regulation making facemask wearing compulsory on public transport to include all public gatherings such as church services.

There are no easy answers (that I can see) to the dilemmas Level 2 raises, and my sense is that if we remain in Level 2, then the churches of NZ (not just of the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch) are going to need to take a phrase within the epistle reading yesterday (Romans 12:9-21) to heart:

"Be patient in suffering."


Chris D said...

A valid set of reflections, but I note that the requirement for religious gatherings is to "keep attendees who do not know each other 1 metre apart".

I'm assuming they do not refer to "knowing" one another in the KJV sense, but this leaves us in the strange position of saying "the diocese says keep your distance, but the government is fine with you sitting together".

MIchael Reddell said...

On your wish, I presume that you have the authority to require masks to be worn at all services and related occasions within your diocese? Doing so at present would, I’m guessing, alienate someone and reassure others.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Chris and Michael,’

Chris: we may need to conform Dio guidelines to govt guidelines/regulations.

Michael: I have yet to test out such power! I have recommended use of face masks but as best I can tell, accepting the recommendation has not been at all widespread - it would need either a government mandate or a zeitgeist moving through the whole community to get the recommendation acted on.

Father Ron said...

Am I wrong in thinking that; if the use of masks was advertised as primarily for the sake of OTHERS, not just one's-self, this might be a better moral tool of persuasion than the current bare encouragement to 'wear a mask'? I wear one in crowded public places to show others I want them to be safe from any germs I might be carrying.