Dear Parishioners, Clergy and Bishops
It is with awe and trepidation that I welcome President Cyril Ramaphosa’s acceptance of the representations made by religious leaders that faith communities will be responsible and careful enough to return to worship under conditions which will not allow the spread of the coronavirus.
In the next few days, once the government has published its new regulations, we will, with the help of our COVID-19 advisory team, consolidate the regulations and the guidelines that religious leaders have drawn up and update our own ACSA guidelines accordingly.
Until that happens, we will not be able to brief you fully on the conditions under which services can resume. I hope that we will be able to issue a Pentecost message on how we will proceed, especially as we face the cold weather ahead and note that older members of our congregations are among the most vulnerable to becoming seriously ill if they contract the virus.
In the meantime, I want to assure you that the representations we made to the government are comprehensive and detailed. For example, they require enforcement of a limit of 50 on services, disinfecting surfaces between services, physical distancing in churches, the avoidance of shared hymnals and prayer books, the wearing of masks during services, restrictions on singing (because it has proved to play a big role in spreading the virus), avoidance of the common chalice at Eucharist, no gatherings after services and rigorous hygiene in church toilets.
As we wait for guidance and contemplate the way ahead, I urge you, as scripture says, to be gentle as doves and wise as serpents. We should not all start flocking to our parishes but take a lead from bishops and clergy as well as churchwardens or cell group leaders.
We worship a loving God who in Jesus constantly reminds us to “go and do likewise”. This is of course means thinking about and doing the right things. We are just as able to do that as the businesses that have been allowed to open under their own strict conditions.