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First day: Congregation members back with bells (well, masks) on at Central Villages Anglican Church in Lawson. photo: Brendan Samuels was October 17. “We had been out of the Ingleburn building for December 5 [when restrictions are relaxed further].” 18 months since the first lockdown due to a building project. We At Seven Hills, which also reopened on the last Sunday in October, cleaned the church and put up the last cabinets the day before our well over half its members took part in a survey sent to them by first services… it’s a new start for everyone.” rector the Rev Mark Williamson, who says “just about all the responses... said they were at least considering coming back from the first Sunday”. He adds that the parish wanted to express its unity in Christ by reopening on a day when it wouldn’t be necessary “to police the vaccination status of people as they arrive”. But having said that, the church has made its 9am service available to double vaccinated people only – at least in the short term: “We do have members with significant health issues, [so we want] to provide a ‘safe’ space for them to attend,” he says. While everyone navigates the opening plans in their own parish, spare a thought for congregations that can’t choose when they return, such as Dundas-Telopea and Church@thepeak, which both meet on school grounds. “We’re in the dark for the time being,” says the Rev Stuart Maze from Church@thepeak. He explains that the church can’t return Listening and filming: Sermon time at Lawson. photo: Brendan Samuels to Peakhurst South Public School until after the Department of Education moves to Level 2 in its return-to-school plan – but it’s At Central Villages Anglican Church in Lawson, reopening day was not entirely clear when this will be. October 24. “We decided this because many of our people would A survey of his congregation has shown that 100 per cent of not have been fully vaccinated by October 17 but were soon after,” respondents would be fully vaccinated by October 31. Eighty per cent says senior minister the Rev Tom Melbourne. “Also, not needing to of these were “very keen” or “keen” to return to in-person services, worry about vaccination status forms was very desirable! whenever they will be. However, some did have concerns about “Our people also indicated that they were keen and ready and children being unvaccinated, or mixing vaccinated and unvaccinated raring to go once we could all be back together, so any delay would attendees, so Mr Maze organised an online “town hall” meeting for have been a setback.” members after a recent Sunday service. The majority of parishes contacted planned to open on October 31 or “We talked about how we should think biblically about returning to November 7 – wanting to ensure the 80 per cent double vaccination church, especially with those who have chosen to be vaccinated or mark had been well passed for those 16 and over, as well as providing not be vaccinated – respecting differences,” he says. “We also did extra time to organise safety arrangements and plan other ministries. a live Q&A with three doctors from church talking about vaccines, At Hurstville, rector the Rev Brian Tung says the decision to choose health risks, dispelling myths etc, which was super helpful in October 31 was “a balancing of the key factors: relationship and dampening anxiety and concerns.” connection; safety and health; mission and discipleship; resources In addition, as members can’t yet gather for church as they and operational complexity. normally would, “we’re encouraging people to meet in each other’s “The opening won’t be uniform across the church,” he adds. “Some homes to watch church on Sunday, and small groups will also start ministries will operate in-person fully, others will be staged, and to meet up again. It’s a halfway point from being at home alone, or others won’t be starting at all until 2022. Also, part of our planning just with your household, to being all together at church – whenever needed to accommodate contingencies – what happens before that happens.” SC 4

SouthernCross

November 2021