The PCV and COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Office news

Peter Phillips
Acting Clerk

As circulated on the PCV News Network 12 March 2020

Many churches have released statements regarding the surge in the number of confirmed Covid-19 (Coronavirus) cases around the world and its likely spread into Australia, which experts say is inevitable (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J_RrEGEplCg).
 
It  has been suggested that the PCV ought to issue such a statement; in the PCV it appears that such a task falls to the Clerk of Assembly – or, when he is on extended leave as at present, to the Acting Clerk!
 
I acknowledge with thanks the assistance I have received from Fiona Bligh and Chris Duke in the preparation of this statement; however, the responsibility for the final product is mine alone.
 
In particular, the areas I have been asked to address are:
1.    Taking some measures now to enable us to keep meeting, so we are not seen to be lax 
2.    Reiterating the best practice when serving food especially how we serve the Lord’s Supper
3.    Specific changes to levels of distance between and touching people.
 
General sources of Information and Guidance
A valuable source of information on the virus and the precautions that should be taken in the Australian Government website Coronavirus (COVID-19) health alert
https://www.health.gov.au/news/health-alerts/novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov-health-alert
 
The World Health Organisation information for the public on prevention measures is found at:
https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public
 
As of March 12 (AEST) the World Health Organisation has escalated Covid-19 to a pandemic level.
 
The Commonwealth Government has activated the Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan for COVID-19.
 
The expert advice is that there is no need for panic; that the situation is under control, and that until further notice, congregations and their members should continue to go about normal daily life and travel, church, work or study.  However, in the present situation, the best-hygiene practices we ought to always follow are particularly important: 

Personal Hygiene

  • Wash hands often with soap and running water, for at least 20 seconds. Dry with paper towel or hand dryer. Use alcohol-based hand sanitiser if hand-washing facilities are not readily available to you.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Practice “social distancing” – maintain at least 1 metre (3.3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing, and refrain from handshaking and hugging.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow.
  • Isolate yourself at home if you feel sick. If you take medication, ensure you have adequate supplies.
  • Phone your GP first if you need medical attention. He or she will tell you what to do.
  • Don’t wear a face mask if you are well.
  • Get the flu shot (available April).

Prevention Ideas for ministers/sessions/boards of management and others:
·     Download and share 10 ways to reduce your risk of Coronavirus 
·     Download the Victorian Government Coronavirus Factsheet
·     Buy an alcohol-based hand sanitiser with over 60 per cent alcohol. Have hand-sanitisers available throughout the church
·     Encourage people to wash their hands and post reminder signs throughout the church. Resources available via The Department of Health and Human Services website in various languages
·     Shaking hands is optional! Give permission for fist bumps or a hand wave to replace hugs and hand shaking.
·     Place boxes of tissues in public access area e.g. church reception.
·     Wipe down everything touched by churchgoers, like door handles and railings after every service.
·     Limit nonessential large gatherings.
·     Host conference calls or video chats as alternatives for face-to-face meetings, as possible.

  • Advise the church community that anyone who has recently returned from an affected country (according to the Australian Federal Government advice – e.g. China, Iran, Italy) must refrain from attending church services and activities for 14 days after their arrival in Australia [note: should the period of self-isolation increase from 14 days this information will be available from government].

I commend the Sydney Anglicans ‘Coronavirus precautions for churches updated’ (link below)
 
In particular:
 
On Communion:
“We advise that where you hold services that include Communion, it is best for the bread and wine to be served from the front only, rather than passed around on trays or in baskets in the pews. While many churches distribute bread and individual cups of wine in this way, the problem is not merely people touching the bread, but people also touching the trays. We recommend the bread be served to each individual by a designated person (or persons) who has washed their hands with soap and water and used hand sanitiser just prior to distributing the bread. We also recommend that churches do not use the common cup, because the same risks exist from multiple handling by communicants. Instead, individual cups of wine (or juice) should be provided.”
 
On Serving food
 
“Once again we encourage wise execution of serving food. This may include replacing open packets of biscuits with individually wrapped biscuits, suspending communal dinners, not allowing food on open trays or plates. In essence, it is not wise to allow opportunity for people to touch or breathe on food that will then be consumed by others. Please note this advice also extends to mid-week groups, such as Bible studies and ESL groups that might gather on church premises.”
https://sydneyanglicans.net/news/coronavirus-precautions-for-churches-updated
 
BTW, individual pre-filled communion cups (including wafers) are available as per pic below $59.99 per 100 – click this link to buy from Koorong
 
·    Boards of management should review their emergency operations plan and communication plan in the context of a pandemic.

  • Sessions should plan a response should there be a government ban on mass gatherings. The plan should include: how to inform your church community should services and activities need to be suspended / cancelled, displaying signage for the property advising the suspension / cancellation of services and activities, until further notice, what (if any) provision for online services might be possible.

·     Encourage congregations to get information regarding the virus from trusted sources like state health officials and The Department of Health and Human Services website. The government has also published the Australian Health Sector Emergency Response Plan which provides an overview of the national approach and operational plan. Visit ‘The Victorian Government’ website for information: https://www2.health.vic.gov.au

  • Consider those people who are weak and vulnerable in our congregations, especially where there is minimal family input watching out for such. This would include but not exclusively, the aged, the widow and widowers and single parent families and people with a disability. Experience thus far indicates that the most vulnerable have been those >60/70 years , immunocompromised individuals, and people with chronic medical conditions (such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, respiratory diseases, cancer and hypertension).

·     Encourage people to seek medical care if they require it.
·     Advise church staff and congregation members to review their family emergency plans, and, take time to prepare now. For more information go to   https://www.ses.vic.gov.au/documents/112015/135368/Home+Emergency+Plan+Workbook-pdf/a96fb8c4-8fca-4967-b8ca-ad2d97526aff .
·      Create plans to enable church staff to work remotely if that becomes a necessity. 
Click here for more information on Coronavirus and Australian workplace laws

  • Download, print and display these posters:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/5nir32ib6gxcd04/Cover%20your%20cough%20and%20sneeze%20poster.pdf?dl=0
https://www.dropbox.com/s/xn529oudzjndlg1/Wash%20your%20hands%20regularly%20poster.pdf?dl=0
 
Finally – on trusting the Lord in times like these

  • Let us remember that our God reigns, even over pandemics; that nothing in his creation escapes his attention or his purpose (Revelation 19:6). He is also our keeper as Psalm 121 reminds us; we need not be afraid, for our ‘help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us simply to trust in the Lord and to not lean on our own understanding. When trouble threatens we need to focus our minds on the Lord and remember the wonderful promises and truths of the scriptures. Our Lord is King over all the forces of nature. Our Lord is also infinitely wise as Romans 8:28 reminds us; “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
  • Let us remember to pray for each other and for our communities, remembering the scripture, ‘Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. … Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.  Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.’ (James 5:13-18)

  
You might find these useful:

  • Training from Ministry Grid regarding how church might be able to plan ahead during pandemic diseases: https://ministrygrid.com/coronavirus (sign up required)
  • The total video content of the training is about 20-30 minutes. The rest are PDF handouts.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/l877bh290efodz6/pandemic_planning_considerations.pdf?dl=0
https://www.dropbox.com/s/owuozhb5m9l9zhx/faithbaseedcommunitychecklist.pdf?dl=0
Information on the nature of the virus:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/gp55wdc8691w44p/Coronavirus%20church%20recommendation%20%282%29.docx?dl=0

This document is available in Word format from the following link:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/13ef0yjxartrgcw/The%20PCV%20and%20Covid.docx?dl=0